Dawoud Bey on Photographing People and Communities

by SHOWstudio on 1 November 2019

Aperture’s latest offering delves into the creative practice of award winning portrait photographer Dawoud Bey.

Aperture’s latest offering delves into the creative practice of award winning portrait photographer Dawoud Bey.

Seminal American photographer Dawoud Bey is set to release a new book through publishing house Aperture, offering readers a chance to learn about his photographic process. The book is part of Aperture’s The Photography Workshop Series and will explore over 70 images from Bey’s 40 plus year career.

Queens native Bey will showcase striking portraits alongside text where he explains his creative practice, offers insight into making photographs and explains how he collaborates with his subjects in order to produce more meaningful sittings. 'Pictures of people in front of a camera - that describes everything that I’ve done for forty years, every single picture,' writes Bey in one chapter of the survey.

Dawoud Bey on Photographing People and Communities, courtesy of Aperture
Dawoud Bey on Photographing People and Communities, courtesy of Aperture

As well as examining Dawoud Bey's own work, the book will also visit his relationship with one of his earliest influences Richard Avedon. Bey discusses what initially inspired him to take up photography, including a teenage trip visiting the Marlborough Gallery in Manhattan to view a Richard Avedon exhibition. Bey writes, 'once I got there, I was blown away by Avedon’s portraits...I was struck by how the portraits convey a credible sense of identity as the person is isolated in the blank, white background. To me, this is what makes a photograph of a person, a portrait.'

Dawoud Bey on Photographing People and Communities, courtesy of Aperture

Bey's passion for photographing people and his focus on portraiture as an artistic medium are prevalent themes throughout the book. 'My ideas have largely centred on the human subject; I’m interested in visualising the human community in a broad range of contexts,' he writes. 'The strategy and context may change, but it’s always a person or people sitting or standing in front of the camera.'

Bey's portraiture work has been universally celebrated and it's perhaps his images which depict African American subjects that truly showcases his fierce love of community. Inspired by growing up in Jamaica, Queens in the 50s and 60s, his photographs of New York neighbourhoods focus on examining the individual as well as one's relation to the wider community. Championing black American identity is inherent in Bey's work and in Dawoud Bey on Photographing People and Communities he explains the motivations behind this, ‘part of my agenda to make the black subject a visible presence in my photographs and ultimately a place on the walls of galleries and museums when the work would be exhibited.'

Dawoud Bey on Photographing People and Communities, courtesy of Aperture
Dawoud Bey on Photographing People and Communities, courtesy of Aperture

Aperture’s The Photography Workshop Series sees some of the world’s top photographers recreate workshops in the form of books to help show their creative approaches, techniques and insights on photography. Aperture aims to inspire photographers and readers interested in deepening their understanding of photography. Previous releases under The Photography Workshop Series include books by Mary Ellen Mark, Paul Strand, Larry Fink and Dorethea Lange.

Dawoud Bey on Photographing People and Communities is set to be released 7th November and will be available to buy online via https://aperture.org/shop/dawoud-bey-workshop-series