From 1988 to 1991 Dawoud Bey made a series of portraits of African Americans in the streets of various American cities.
Using a large format tripod mounted camera and a unique positive/negative Polaroid film that created both an instant print and a reusable negative, he asked a cross section of the populations of these communities to pose for him, creating a space of self presentation and performance in the streets of the urban environment.
As part of every encounter, Bey gave each person a small black-and-white Polaroid print for themselves as a way of reciprocating and returning something to the people who had allowed him to make their portrait.
Dawned Bey critically reimagines the social and political potential of photography. Through his collaborative portraits of subjugated and misrepresented communities, the author sanctions the existence of the ‘black gaze’ and empowers a community to engage in a dialogue with the way it is represented.
Challenging racial stereotypes, the resulting portraits reveal the subjects in all the richness of their psychological complexity as they openly and intimately present themselves to the camera, the viewer and the world.