Photographer who looks beyond stereotypes will talk at Bates

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LEWISTON — Dawoud Bey, a photographer renowned for his ability to capture the individual reality overlooked in conventional portrayals of teens and other stereotyped groups,  will discuss his work Wednesday, Feb. 15, at Bates College.

“Dawoud is a stunning artist whose photography seeks to challenge our assumptions and bridge our differences,” said Roland Davis, director of the college’s Office of Intercultural Education. “He’s a truth teller, but he also demands that we look closely at our preconceptions about people, because often there’s so much more than what we see.”

The talk, put on by the OIE and Bates College Museum of Art, will be at 5:30 p.m. in the Benjamin Mays Center, 95 Russell St. Admission is free.

The OIE supports the advancement of diversity and inclusion at Bates, and Bey is the office’s inaugural visiting artist and scholar.

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Bey, who came of age in the 1960s and ’70s, has taken to heart an activist slogan of that seminal era: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

As he told the online magazine OnMilwaukee.com in 2009, “I always wanted my photographs to challenge the status quo, to contest the kinds of images that existed in popular culture, that staked out my own sense of who and what the subject matter was and why [it’s] important.”

Bey has evolved a collaborative approach to his work that actively engages his subjects, as well as participating museums and other cultural institutions, and seeks to foster a sense of community. For 20 years, in his project “Class Pictures,” he has made large-format portraits of high-school students that, presented with essays by the teenagers themselves, seek to create a new understanding of American diversity and of the youth experience.

“Class Pictures” toured nationally in 2011, and the book “Class Pictures: Photographs by Dawoud Bey” was published by Aperture in 2007.

Bey, who earned a master of fine arts degree from Yale University School of Art, began his photography career in 1975 with the series “Harlem, USA.” The series, a response to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Harlem on My Mind,” became the subject of a 1979 exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Bey’s work has been shown and collected by major U.S. and international museums. He has also published critical essays on contemporary art and has been a professor of art and a Distinguished College Artist at Columbia College Chicago since 1998.

For more information, call 786-8303 or email eburke@bates.edu.

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