In this video excerpt of a talk with Carrie Mae Weems from February 2008, when the exhibition was on view at Aperture Gallery, Dawoud Bey explains how the portraits in "Class Pictures" result from a close collaboration with his subjects. His directions were made to highlight the gestures, looks and how the teenagers were posing within the classroom. Bey also speaks about the relevance of the subjects’ written testimonies and how they complete and deepen the portraits.
The exhibition and its coinciding monograph, Class Pictures (Aperture, 2007), feature Bey’s striking large-scale color portraits of students at high schools across the United States. For the past fifteen years, Bey has been photographing teenagers from a wide economic, social, and ethnic spectrum, and—intensely attentive to their poses and gestures—has created a highly diverse generational portrait that challenges stereotypes of teenagers. A brief autobiographical statement by the subject—by turns poignant, funny, or harrowing—accompanies each portrait.