Dawoud Bey began making photographs at sixteen, after viewing the work of James VanDerZee and other photographers in the “Harlem On My Mind” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1969. Further experiences viewing the works of Roy DeCarava, Mike Disfarmer, Walker Evans, Irving Penn, and Richard Avedon clarified his interest in photographing the human subject. Bey began his career as an exhibiting photographer in 1975 with his first series of photographs, “Harlem, USA,” that were later exhibited in his first one-person exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979. He has since had numerous exhibitions worldwide, at such institutions as the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Barbican Centre in London, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Fogg Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA, the National Portrait Gallery in London, Yale University Art Gallery, and the Whitney Museum of American Art among many others.
His photographs are also included in numerous collections in this country and abroad, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Wadsworth Atheneum, and Yale University Art Gallery, among many others. The Walker Art Center organized a mid-career survey of his work, “Dawoud Bey: Portraits 1975-1995,” that traveled to institutions throughout the United States and Europe. A major publication of the same title was also published in conjunction with that exhibition. “Class Pictures: Photographs by Dawoud Bey” was published by Aperture in 2007 and Aperture is also traveling an exhibition of the same title to various museums around the country through 2011. The Art Institute of Chicago and Yale University Press will publish Bey’s “Harlem, USA” in 2012, and the Art Institute of Chicago will mount an exhibition of that work next year as well.
Bey is the recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University. His critical writings on photography and contemporary art have appeared in numerous publications and exhibition catalogs. He has taught at colleges and universities for the past thirty years, and is currently Professor of Art and Distinguished College Artist at Columbia College Chicago.