Class Pictures: Photographs by Dawoud Bey

April 16–July 12, 2009
Koss Gallery

A Chicago-based artist with an international reputation, Dawoud Bey has photographs in the collections of major institutions worldwide and has had his work exhibited at, among others, the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Portrait Gallery, London; and Whitney Museum of American Art, where he was included in the 2000 Whitney Biennial.

The forty portraits and writings that make their premiere in Class Pictures provide a poignant, penetrating view into the lives inside today’s American high schools. As part of a five-year project begun in 2002 on Chicago’s South Side, Bey spent two to three weeks in each of three schools in the Midwest and on the East coast, getting to know students and encouraging them to explore their creative voices through photography. Toward the end of his time at each school, Bey photographed the students and asked them to write a one-page description of themselves, which appear in the exhibition as edited texts.

With this traveling exhibition and its associated book, Bey hopes “to create a compelling and significant contemporary portrait of American youth in its various social and human dimensions. I believe that such a group of photographs-with the attendant texts-will constitute a significant record and examination of our time...Rather than viewing young people through a lens of social problematics that generalizes the individual, I intend to make a rich and complex description of these subjects.”

The exhibition catalogue Class Pictures is available for purchase online from the Museum Store.

Class Pictures: Photographs by Dawoud Bey is sponsored by the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Contemporary Art Society, Rockwell Automation, and Joanne Murphy. Additional support provided by the Milwaukee Art Museum’s African American Art Alliance. Aperture, a not-for-profit organization devoted to photography and the visual arts, has organized this traveling exhibition and produced the accompanying publications. The exhibition is coordinated at the Milwaukee Art Museum by Curator of Photographs Lisa Hostetler.

Opening reception is sponsored by the Photography Council and the African American Art Alliance.


Dawoud Bey, Usha, 2006. From the book Class Pictures (Aperture, 2007). Image courtesy Aperture Foundation.