Dawoud Bey: An American Project Through May 30, 2022


“This exhibition is magnificent.”
—Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle

Photographer Dawoud Bey portrays communities and histories that have been underrepresented or even unseen. From portraits in Harlem to nocturnal landscapes, classic street photography to large-scale studio portraits, his images combine an ethical imperative with an unparalleled mastery of his medium.

Dawoud Bey: An American Project spans the breadth of Bey’s career through nearly 90 works, from the 1970s to the present. Photographs in this retrospective of the influential photographer range from his earliest street portraits in Harlem (1975–78) to his most recent historical explorations: the Underground Railroad (2017) and Louisiana plantations (2020).

Born in New York City in 1953, Bey received his first camera as a gift when he was 15. The following year, he saw the landmark, highly divisive exhibition Harlem on My Mind at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Widely criticized for its failure to include significant numbers of artworks by African Americans, the exhibition nonetheless made an impression on Bey and inspired him to take up his own documentary project about Harlem, in 1975. Since that time, Bey has worked primarily in portraiture, making tender, psychologically rich and direct portrayals of Black subjects and rendering African American history in a form that is poetic, poignant, and immediate.

Dawoud Bey: An American Project introduces Bey’s deeply humanistic photographs into a long-running conversation about what it means to represent America with a camera.

Shop the Show
Browse exhibition-related items at the MFA Shop online.

A Conversation with the Artist
Dawoud Bey talks with curator Malcolm Daniel on the opening day of the exhibition.

Exhibition Overview
Find out more about Dawoud Bey: An American Project from curator Malcolm Daniel.

Dawoud Bey: An American Project / March 6–May 30, 2022

Included with general admission. Advance timed tickets recommended.


This exhibition is co-organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Generous support provided by:
The African American Art Advisory Association (5A) at the MFAH
Krista and Michael Dumas
Merinda Watkins-Martin and Reginald Martin
Nancy Powell Moore
Joan Morgenstern