An interest in photographic representations of the human experience and the marginalized factions of society motivated Dawoud Bey to create his first photographic series documenting the citizens of Harlem in the 1970s. Turning to young people as the subject of his work throughout the 1990s, he has photographed high school students frequently as an artist-in-residence at cultural institutions throughout the U.S. Creating large-scale, full-color portraits of his subjects, Bey attempts to present teenagers as complex and engaging people, a view contrary to stereotypes found in the media at large.
Bey is the recipient of a 2002 Guggenheim Fellowship and has been included in numerous one-person and group exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad. In 1995, the Walker Art Center organized a mid-career survey of his photographic work entitled Dawoud Bey: Portraits 1975-1995. Bey is currently working on a series called Class Portraits that will feature work from collaborations with high schools across the U.S. Work from his most recent residency will be featured in the 2004 exhibition Dawoud Bey: Detroit Portraits at the Detroit Institute of Arts.