Celebrated African-American photographer Dawoud Bey said he was “pleased” that he had won one of this year’s coveted MacArthur Foundation “genius” grants on Wednesday, but his reaction was as understated as his contribution to 40 years of chronicling Black life in America through a steady stream of captivating still images.
The New York City native-turned Chicagoan was one of 24 recipients of the genius grants, defined as “unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” He was one of six Black people in this year’s winning class of MacArthur fellows.
Bey blossomed as a photographer through various, mostly black-and-white portraits featured in a series of books, such as his 2013 project “Birmingham: Four Girls and Two Boys,” which was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Alabama. He had previously gained renown for his exhibit named “Dawoud Bey: The Chicago Project,” as well as a book of photos entitled “Harlem, U.S.A”, which documented the historic African-American neighborhood in New York City.
Bey has recently changed the focus of his photography from portraiture to places, he told the Chicago Tribune.
“It’ll be nighttime landscapes, showing a sense of place, so very different for me,” he said in a story published Wednesday. “There will be no people in the pictures, and yet there will be, in the sense that it’s spaces where people once moved through. I don’t know if anyone will see this work and immediately recognize it as mine but I like that. I’m in a new period, and it feels good.”
For those unfamiliar with Bey’s work, below is a glimpse and brief introduction to the type off work that helped his iconic career soar to the heights that now includes a MacArthur fellowship.
White it was rare, some of Bey’s photos were taken in color, as shown below in the simply titled, “KEVIN,” taken in 2003.
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