Whitney Biennial 2014

Solo en Inglès

Hear directly from artists as they discuss the thoughts, processes, and ideas behind their work in the 2014 Biennial. The guide also features commentary from Biennial curators Stuart Comer, Anthony Elms, and Michelle Grabner.

402-2—Dawoud Bey, Barack Obama, 2008


DAWOUD BEY: The Obama photograph came about because I know Barack Obama. 

NARRATOR: Dawoud Bey. 

DAWOUD BEY: We’re neighbors and friends and we have a lot of friends in common. One of the things that I wanted to do, especially at that moment—the photograph was made shortly before he announced that he was going to run for president—and there was a growing buzz around him. Things were still quiet but they were not going to be for long. 

I have to say that in making that photograph of him, and actually a photograph that I make of anyone, regardless of who it is, I do the same thing. Because I’m looking for the same thing. That quality of momentary interiority, that sense of some complex aspect of the person coming momentarily to the surface. I’m trying to situate the subject in a very particular space. I want the space to be part of the conception and the narrative of the photograph. That portrait of Obama just kind of stands alone as a particular moment in history, when things were about to change dramatically both for that individual and for the country. And I’m hoping that at the end of the presidency that I’ll be able to make another portrait of him.


Dawoud Bey, _Barack Obama_, 2008. Pigmented inkjet print, 40 x 32 in. (101.6 x 81.3 cm). Collection of the artist; courtesy Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago