Inspiration of Dawoud Bey

After looking through Dawoud Bey’s Class Pictures Series and listening to his discussion about the series, I can say that he was very methodical in his style. Bey started the series at a high school in Chicago where he met the students as a class first, then had the individuals who wanted to participate enter the room one at a time. He had 45 minutes during the course of the school day to shoot, in this time he utilized natural/umbrella light and a tripod to achieve his desired lighting. The student would enter the room and spend some time writing about themselves, during that time Bey looked at their clothing and placed the subject in an area that complimented them and didnt obstruct his view. He did not read their personal stories before shooting, but through directing was able to compose photos that captured the subject’s essence, expression and gave a heightened experience while maintaining a relaxed pose. Bey also kept the photos tightly cropped around the subject either shooting the whole body sitting in a chair or from the knee or waist up with the subject looking into the camera. He was just as focused on the subject themselves as the environment around them. His portraits were unveiled at a museum in Chicago where the students got to see themselves and their stories in the exhibit. This bought representation of the community into the museum as well as opening it up to members who had never been to the museum before. From his approach to portraiture, I can say that it encourages me to be more methodical. As in having an idea of what I want to see or achieve, getting the subject to be more relaxed by making conversation and finally trying to capture the subject’s humanity or emotion in a photo.

1 thought on “Inspiration of Dawoud Bey

  1. rmichals

    I would ordinarily interpret the word methodical to mean rote. I don’t think you mean it like this.

    I think you mean that Bey has a clear intention and he takes steps to get what he wants in the photo. Bey wanted to counter the negative stereotypes about teenagers. So when thinking about taking a portrait clearly imagine what you are trying to create. Are you trying to make the person look strong, beautiful, smart? And yes, your job as a photographer first and foremost is to get the subject to feel comfortable in front of the camera. This last is not always easy!


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