Dawoud Bey

In Dawoud Bey’s, Class pictures, the subjects, in this case his students, were placed in a school/classroom environment, which is blurred out in the background, so that the main focus could be his students, and not the objects behind them that could be distracting. The subject in the photographs are very nicely framed. They’re all positioned in the center, even though they are all in different positions. All of the subjects are looking straight ahead at the camera which cause for there to be a certain connection between the viewer and the subjects, almost as if they were actually sitting in front of one, having a somewhat deep conversation. Dawoud did a very nice job in capturing his student’s expressions. What Ii also realized about the photographs is that the lighting is subtle, and not dramatic. There is no harsh split lighting. It’s more of a clamshell lighting with a diffuser being used. The photographs seem like genuine high school students and not just some models that were hired. What I enjoy about them is the diversity that we see in all of those set of images. The expressions on the subjects have a subtle mystery to them, as if each one had a story that hasn’t been told yet. The idea that I got about how I might approach photography from looking at this work is that next time I could tell my subject to not force a smile or a pose, just let them do what makes them feel more comfortable because, this way my subjects will have more of a genuine feeling to them, just like in these photographs.




One thought on “Dawoud Bey

  1. rmichals

    Your observation that Bey uses shallow depth of field to isolate the subjects from theb ackgrounds is a good one.

    Clamshell lighting refers to front light. While Bey sometimes uses front light, most of the time his main light is placed at about 45 degrees from the camera to create Rembrandt light. What you may mean instead is that there is low contrast between the main light and the fill, meaning that the shadows on the face are never harsh.


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