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Dawoud Bey

Dawoud Bey
Seeing Deeply

With images ranging from street photography in Harlem to a commemoration of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, this volume offers a forty-year career retrospective of the award-winning photographer Dawoud Bey.

Series: UT Press Fine Arts Endowment

September 2018
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400 pages | 11 x 12 | 129 color and 136 b&w photos |

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Recipient of a 2017 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” Dawoud Bey has created a body of photography that masterfully portrays the contemporary American experience on its own terms and in all of its diversity.

Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply offers a forty-year retrospective of the celebrated photographer’s work, from his early street photography in Harlem to his current images of Harlem gentrification. Photographs from all of Bey’s major projects are presented in chronological sequence, allowing viewers to see how the collective body of portraits and recent landscapes create an unparalleled historical representation of various communities in the United States. Leading curators and critics—Sarah Lewis, Deborah Willis, David Travis, Hilton Als, Jacqueline Terrassa, Rebecca Walker, Maurice Berger, and Leigh Raiford—introduce each series of images.

Revealing Bey as the natural heir of such renowned photographers as Roy DeCarava, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, and James Van Der Zee, Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply demonstrates how one man’s search for community can produce a stunning portrait of our common humanity.


Longlisted for the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation's 2019 Photography Book Award

2019 PDN Photographer of the Year Award

2019 Traditional Photo Book Prize Winner, Lucie Foundation

2019 Winner of the International Center of Photography's Infinity Award

  • Introduction. The Art of Negotiation by Sarah Lewis
  • Harlem, U.S.A. Framing Harlem by Deborah Willis
  • Small Camera Work. The Daily Miracle by David Travis
  • Black-and-White Type 55 Polaroid Street Portraits. Young Man at a Tent Revival by Hilton Als
  • 20 × 24 Polaroid Works. From the Streets into the Studio by Dawoud Bey
  • Class Pictures. What Is the “Work”? by Jacqueline Terrassa
  • Character Project
  • Strangers/Community. For Now. by Rebecca Walker
  • The Birmingham Project. A Remembrance of Lives Lost by Maurice Berger
  • Harlem Redux. Harlem Redux by Leigh Raiford
  • Chronology
  • Plates
  • Acknowledgments

Chicago, Illinois

Dawoud Bey’s work is held by major collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In addition to the MacArthur fellowship, Bey’s honors include the United States Artists Guthman Fellowship, 2015; the Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography, 2002; and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, 1991. He is Professor of Art and a former Distinguished College Artist at Columbia College Chicago.


“Viewers experience how the collective body of portraits and newer landscapes create an unprecedented historical portrayal of different communities in the United States.”
World of Print

“Until [Bey] gets his inevitable museum retrospective, Seeing Deeply will do nicely. His Harlem series, his portraits of high school students, his Birmingham Project exploring a 1963 church bombing that killed four girls — all here, in big, simple presentations offset by essays (from writers including Hilton Als). It’s a joy.”
Chicago Tribune

“Photographs from all of Bey’s major projects are presented in chronological sequence, allowing viewers to see how the collective body of portraits and recent landscapes create an unparalleled historical representation of various communities in the United States.”
Photo-eye Blog

“An illustration of an incomporable photographer: one that places empathy, respect, and determination at the centre of their work.”
Huck Magazine

Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply carefully takes you through Bey's 40-year career to this point…As you dig deeper into his projects, you get a sense of how important representation and community are to Bey.”
Eugene Weekly, Photography Books of the Year

“The 1970s-era black-and-white street photographs from Harlem in Dawoud Bey...are remarkable for their lack of artifice. Some are candid, but in many the subject acknowledges the photographer and is yet at ease; this takes considerable skill. Unlike other portraits of blacks from the period that either valorize them or show them as pitiable, these give us credible persons we can acknowledge.”
Wall Street Journal

“[Bey's] photography is inseparable from his audience and would be diminished without their approval and loyalty. If we hear the rhetoric of protest echoing in the nine chapters of this glorious book, it's against those who would underestimate the control, skill, resilience and shared humanity necessary for someone to make art with a camera of the quality we're holding.”
Collector Daily

“[Bey's] 'The Birmingham Project' is at D.C.'s National Gallery of Art, but if you can't make it, this imperial-size book is a fine alternative.”
New York Magazine

Seeing Deeply reveals [Bey's] decades-long exploration of community, memory, and photography...Ultimately, [Bey's] work is an ongoing exploration of photography's possibilities, informed by his research and cultural influences.”
New York Times

“Producing contemporary photography is a delicate negotiation between aesthetic intuition and questions of autonomy. The medium is a chess game of vision and ethics—a game Dawoud Bey seems to have mastered…Through his every interaction with individual subjects and broader communities, the images he constructs are uniquely attentive to the weight of specificity. They tell stories, but not ones concerned with tidiness. Their power lies in narrative left lingering—thoughts of what remains outside the frame.”
Flood Magazine

“[Bey's] elevation of the every day to the extraordinary is in the tradition of Gordon Parks and Roy DeCarava, but the legacy is all his own.”
The Root

“A mammoth retrospective volume, [Dawoud Bey] makes clear that a genius vision has coursed through [Bey's] work for more than 40 years.”
Culture Type

“[A]n unparalleled historical representation of various communities in the United States. Prodigious is an apt descriptor for Seeing Deeply.”
F-Stop Magazine

“This retrospective is…a magnificent testament to what can be shown about people's pride and hope, and in an exemplary yet subtle manner seems to posit the idea that all us individuals, no matter what our background and heritage may be, are interested in building a better future and would benefit from collaboration. This photobook is destined to become a classic!”
The PhotoBook Journal

“[A] lavish retrospective.”
The Chicago Tribune

“A] testament not only to Bey's long career as a working photographer but to an artist who is relentlessly exploring, reworking, and rethinking his method and medium.”
American Suburb X

“[A] voluminous monograph with all the luxurious detail of a Phaidon-style tome and all the scholarly heft of a catalogue raisonné.”
Newcity Art

“Through Bey's lens, his subjects receive a level of respect and a glimpse into their shared humanity that is nothing short of marvelous.”
Zócalo Public Square

“A beautiful retrospective of [Bey's] work.”
PBS NewsHour

“An essential monograph...An artist whose craft draws forth the nuances of human expression, Bey shares as much about his subjects as he does about himself in this intimate and important book.”
Contemporary And

“This magnificent effusion of photographs and commentary is more than a riveting artistic and social experience; it is also a stunning exhibition of the human spirit.”
The Virginian-Pilot

“Bey’s portraits prompt talk of souls; these are pictures that stare back. The gazes Bey captures on film simulate the experience of encounter...This is the drama of Bey’s work, the relationship between picture and viewer, who is held by the image such that she cannot merely be a passerby but is confronted, rather, with questions of the soul.”
Religious Studies Review

“This is a magnificent achievement. Dawoud Bey is a modern master.”
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University

Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply is a timeless masterpiece for the ages. With its sincerity, concern, and attention to communities and lives lost, displaced, or erased, it is a documentary record for US history. I’ve never seen a book of this depth and magnitude about the intentions and thoughts of an artist’s own life and work.”
LaToya Ruby Frazier

“This book is a gold mine . . . a gift of a well-measured life. Throughout these pages, Bey graciously allows us to walk through his mind as he tussles with one of the great questions in photography: how best to describe a people at a particular historical moment? As both participant and observer, he delivers the answers!”
Carrie Mae Weems

“In Bey’s penetrating pictures, he seeks and struggles to discover the life force that unites us all in the impossible search for a common humanity. His precise, tenderly seen subjects are subjects we have always known, but have not; should have known, but did not; but now, must know. In their quietude, grace, and virtue they have an urgency for our time, positing an ethics of seeing and being.”
Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art