Photographer Dawoud Bey adds MacArthur genius grant to noted career looking at African-American life

Photographer Dawoud Bey adds MacArthur genius grant to noted career looking at African-American life

Though Dawoud Bey, the long-beloved titan of African-American photographic portraiture, began his career 40 years ago, his often-repeated origin is worth repeating here: In 1969, Bey, then a young man from Queens, New York, heard about a controversial exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and went to check out the protests.

Though Dawoud Bey, the long-beloved titan of African-American photographic portraiture, began his career 40 years ago, his often-repeated origin is worth repeating here: In 1969, Bey, then a young man from Queens, New York, heard about a controversial exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and went to check out the protests. The show, “Harlem on My Mind,” was accused of white voyeurism, anti-Semitism; a survey of Harlem culture, it was notably light on black artists. But there were large portraits by Harlem Renaissance photographer James Van DerZee, and Bey was transfixed — perhaps more importantly, he studied others studying the portraits.

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