Daniel Singh – Assignment Due Feb 4 (Inspiration: Dawoud Bey)

Dawoud Bey’s portrait series, Class Pictures, gives insight to his unique style.  The online preview gallery at the Milwaukee Art Museum displays six photographs of various children in classroom environments.  For instance, only two of the subjects, Antoine and Kevin, interact physically with something other than a desk in the background.  Each subject lay in the foreground, with their attention directed straight forward to the camera. Usha, Omar and Kevin eyes are especially piercing.  All are centered in their respective frames, each with qualifying traits that are unique to them. I believe Bey did this purposely, as to give character to each portrait long before a caption was available. Shalanta’s decorative shirt, and long designer nails, and tightly pressed smirk draw the eye in, while Kevin’s zip up shirt reads “FCUK” which at quick glance can be easily confused for profanity, his hat is turned off center, and his body leaned in, as to ask “Is there a problem?”.  Omar’s crossed arm stance on his desk, complete with blank stare let’s us wonder if this is a defense mechanism and why, while Antoine’s crossed arm stance, seated with his head tilted, and body leveraging the wall paint a submissive picture with eyes that look as if they are shielding pain but welcoming someone to ask why.  The lighting is concise in each portrait, natural light is present by way of the windows in Lauren, Usha, and Omar’s portrait but I suspect the presence of a key and fill light by way of the triangle above the cheek of the shadows in Shalanta’s, and Kevin’s portraits.  I would characterize Bey’s portrait style as traditional, but with this series, unconventional subjects.

2 thoughts on “Daniel Singh – Assignment Due Feb 4 (Inspiration: Dawoud Bey)

  1. rmichals

    I appreciate your nuanced description of these students’ expression. It is the emotion that makes these photos as powerful as they are.

    My guess is that Bey uses lights in every photo. Try taking some shots by a window and you will quickly realize that the light falls off very quickly and so a portrait made with window light is very contrasty. Beautiful but it does not look like these photos.

    1. Daniel Singh Post author

      Thank you! — I think it read wrong, sorry for the confusion. I am assuming at least a key and fill are present in every portrait, I just listed examples of which it was ever apparent (ex: Shalanta, and Kevin’s) as well as the ones that showed natural light entering the room because the windows in the background (ex: Lauren, Usha, and Omar’s) were left uncovered.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *