Dawoud Bey’s teenage subjects defy stereotypes of American youth during this complicated age. For Class Pictures, Bey photographed young people from all parts of the economic, racial, and ethnic spectrum in both public and private high schools in Detroit; Lawrence and Andover, Massachusetts; Orlando; San Francisco; and New York City. Bey spent two to three weeks in each school. The resulting portraits—forty-by-thirty-inch color prints—are arresting both compositionally and psychologically. Bey also asked his subjects to write a page about themselves, which he edited, and are displayed alongside the photographs. Many of the first-person statements are touching, funny, or harrowing, invariably deepening our appreciation for young adults facing the challenges of the twenty-first century.
In conjunction with Class Pictures, the Contemporary Museum, in cooperation with the Walters Art Museum, will host a teen residency program during summer 2008. The workshop will lead to an exhibition at the Walters, curated by Bey and the teens, focusing on changing conceptions of portraiture and identity throughout history.
Aperture, a not-for-profit organization devoted to photography and the visual arts, has organized this traveling exhibition and produced the accompanying publication.