Dawoud Bey focuses on the landscape to create a portrait of the early African American presence in the United States.

Renowned for his Harlem street scenes and expressive portraits, Dawoud Bey continues his ongoing series on African American history. Elegy brings together Bey’s three landscape series to date—Night Coming Tenderly, Black (2017); In This Here Place (2021); and Stoney the Road (2023)—elucidating the deep historical memory still embedded in the geography of the United States.

Bey takes viewers to the historic Richmond Slave Trail in Virginia, where Africans were marched onto auction blocks; to the plantations of Louisiana, where they labored; and along the last stages of the Underground Railroad in Ohio, where fugitives sought self-emancipation.

Essays by the exhibition’s curator, Valerie Cassel Oliver, and scholars LeRonn P. Brooks, Imani Perry, and Christina Sharpe illuminate the work. By interweaving these bodies of work into an elegy in three movements, Bey doesn’t merely evoke history, he retells it through historically grounded images that challenge viewers to go beyond seeing and imagine lived experiences.

Copublished by Aperture and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.


Dawoud Bey (born in New York, 1953) has for decades made groundbreaking and evocative work about the histories of Black communities. His numerous honors include a MacArthur Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. A major career retrospective of his work, An American Project, was co-organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2020–22). Bey holds a master of fine arts degree from Yale University School of Art and is currently professor of art and a former Distinguished College Artist at Columbia College Chicago, where he has taught since 1998. His books include Class Pictures (Aperture, 2007), Seeing Deeply (2018), Dawoud Bey on Photographing People and Communities (Aperture, 2019),and Street Portraits (2021).

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