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Black in America, Through a Camera

  • July 04, 2020

Mr. Shabazz is displaying a work of his own, a portrait of a young man and his dog on a Brooklyn stoop, two American flags behind him, one in the conventional red white and blue, the other in the red, black and green of the Pan-African flag.

“That image is very provocative,” Mr. Shabazz said. “It shows a sense of patriotism that’s not always seen in the Black community.”

The need for social distancing has somewhat hampered his ability to catch his subjects’ humor and candor, and interfered as well with the personal interactions that have animated his portraits, documents of Black culture and community since the 1980s.

He has taken to the streets in recent weeks. “But photographing protests now feels very awkward for me,” Mr. Shabazz said. “People wear masks — I’m only seeing half their faces.”

Masked, draped or turbaned, the photographers’ subjects nonetheless speak volumes through their style, their look deliberate and often frankly showy.

“If people are dressed well, they are more open to being approached,” Mr. Shabazz suggested. “They want to be seen.”

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