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Arnold Newman Lecture Series on Photography: Dawoud Bey

Dawoud Bey, artist. Dawoud Bey, born in 1953, has portrayed Americans from marginalized groups with remarkable sensitivity and complexity throughout his 40-year career. When he was eleven, Bey was shocked to see a picture of a young survivor of the 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Four young black girls died in the church and two African American boys were murdered in related violence later that day. Decades later for The Birmingham Project, Bey created sixteen pairs of life-size portraits of present-day residents of Birmingham: one of a young person the same age as a victim in 1963 and another of an adult fifty years older, the child’s age had she or he survived. Representing these unwitting icons of the civil rights movement with ordinary people, the diptychs connect generations and, as Bey explained, make the children “real, tangible. These girls are an abstraction to people — the mythic four girls—we lose sight of their humanity.” On December 16, 2018, as part of the Arnold Newman Lecture Series on Photography at the National Gallery of Art, Bey discusses his artistic practice and celebrates the publication of his monograph, Seeing Deeply. His work is represented in the Gallery’s collection by four inkjet print diptychs and the video, 9.15.63, which are on view in the exhibition Dawoud Bey: The Birmingham Project through March 24, 2019.