Dawoud Bey, Cheryl, 1991, polacolor ER photograph, 30” x 22”, Courtesy of the Rhona Hoffman Gallery Chicago, David Beitzel Gallery, New York, and the artist.
In his early work Dawoud Bey immersed himself in the flow of street life in African-American communities, photographing people in environments that told the viewer who they were. Gradually, he created a more intense vision of his subjects. Like the men and women in nineteenth-century daguerreotypes, the subjects in Bey’s recent photos stare directly at the viewer. Self-assured, calm, fully aware of their own personal power—for they have created it—they present the world with a mystery: their gaze, body language and clothing are the only clues to their identity.