“I photograph family, friends, and strangers, and I operate on the belief that my own being is found in union with those I take pictures of.”  

Deana Lawson’s highly staged, large-format color photographs construct narratives of family, love, intimacy, and desire using a wide range of photographic languages, from the studio portrait to the family album. Neither documentary nor biographical, her pictures tell stories to reclaim an expansive and diasporic Black experience. Indeed, for Lawson, photography’s potential and fraught history makes it perfectly suited to the challenges of representing what she describes as “the majesty of Black life, a nuanced Black life, one that is by far more complex, deep, beautiful, cryptic, celebratory, strange, and poetic.” On the occasion of the survey exhibition Deana Lawson, join the artist and Tina M. Campt, Owen F. Walker Professor of Humanities and Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, in conversation on Lawson’s work and practice within narratives of Black visual cultures today. 

Deana Lawson (b. 1979, Rochester, NY) lives and works between New York and Los Angeles. Lawson received her B.F.A. from Pennsylvania State University (2001) and M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design (2004). Lawson is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2013), Aaron Siskind Fellowship Grant (2008–09), and a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant (2006), among others. In 2020, she was selected for the Hugo Boss Prize, the first photographer to receive the award in recognition of achievement in contemporary art. She is currently the inaugural Dorothy Krauklis ’78 Professor of Visual Arts with the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University. 

Tina M. Campt is Owen F. Walker Professor of Humanities and Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, where she leads the Black Visualities Initiative for the Cogut Institute for the Humanities; she is also a Research Associate at the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre at the University of Johannesburg. A scholar of black feminism, visual culture, and contemporary art, Campt is the author of A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See (MIT Press, 2021); Listening to Images (Duke University Press, 2017); and Image Matters: Archive, Photography, and the African Diaspora in Europe (Duke University Press, 2012).

NOTE: This program will require proof of vaccination to enter the Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theater according to updated Covid protocol. Guests who need reasonable accommodations due to a medical exception or sincerely held religious belief must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the event to obtain access to the program. Learn more about ICA Covid protocol.


The Artist’s Voice: Deana Lawson is made possible, in part, by The Bridgitt and Bruce Evans Public Program Fund. 

Deana Lawson is co-organized by ICA/Boston and MoMA PS1. Organized by Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator, ICA/Boston, and Peter Eleey, Curator-at-Large, UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing and Shanghai, with Anni Pullagura, Curatorial Assistant, ICA/Boston.

Major support for Deana Lawson is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Additional support for the ICA/Boston presentation is generously provided by Bridgitt and Bruce Evans, Aedie McEvoy, Kambiz and Nazgol Shahbazi, Kim Sinatra, Charlotte and Herbert S. Wagner III, and the Fotene Demoulas Fund for Curatorial Research and Publications, the Jennifer Epstein Fund for Women Artists, and The Kristen and The Kent Lucken Fund for Photography.