Dawoud Bey began making photographs in 1969 after seeing the exhibition “Harlem On My Mind” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He had inherited his first camera the year before from his godfather Artie Miller when he was fifteen years old. Born in Queens, Bey’s formal training began by apprenticing to local commercial and fashion photographer Levy J. Smith and then later studying at the School of Visual Arts. He completed his undergraduate work at Empire State College and did his MFA at Yale University in the graduate photography program. A former Guggenheim and NEA fellow, Bey is currently Distinguished College Art and Associate Professor of Art at Columbia College Chicago, where he has taught since 1998.
Bey’s first one-person exhibition was hosted by the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979. He has since had numerous exhibitions worldwide, at such institutions as The Art Institute of Chicago, The Barbican Centre in London, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT, the Walker Art Center, the Yale Art Gallery in New Haven, the Wexner Center for the Arts, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Bey participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence Program in 1985.