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Dawoud Bey    

Photographer & Educator

Dawoud Bey is a photographer and educator whose portraits of people, many from marginalized communities, compel viewers to consider the reality of the subjects' own social presence and histories. Through his expansive approach to photography—which includes deep engagement with his subjects and museum-based projects—Bey is making institutional spaces more accessible to the communities in which they are situated.

Bey has focused on the construction of collective identity, history, and memory. In "Class Pictures", young people from various educational institutions throughout the United States provided written texts about themselves to accompany Bey's photographs of them, creating another layer of evocative self-definition. In "The Birmingham Project", he commemorates the lives of six children killed in the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and its aftermath in Birmingham, Alabama, through a series of portraits of Birmingham residents whose ages correspond either to the ages of the children in 1963 or to how old they would have been fifty years later in 2013. In another project, "Harlem Redux", Bey returns to the site of his first project, "Harlem, U.S.A.", but in this instance, he focuses on the urban landscape and its transformation spurred by gentrification. Through his own work and long-time commitment to educating and mentoring young artists, Bey is redefining the role of photography and portraiture as active agents in the examination and formation of communities.

Bey received a B.F.A. from Empire State College of the State University of New York and an M.F.A. from Yale University. His work has been included in solo and group exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Walker Art Center, the National Portrait Gallery (London), and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among many others. In 1998, he joined the faculty of Columbia College Chicago, where he is currently a professor in the Department of Photography and a former Distinguished College Artist. In 2017, he was named a MacArthur 'Genius Grant' Fellow.


Photographer and Educator Dawoud Bey
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Lecture by Dawoud Bey
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The Art Of EMPIRE: Dawoud Bey
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ICP Lecture Series 2014: Dawoud Bey
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