Eli REEd has won the W. Eugene
Smith Grant for Documentary
Photography, a World Press Photo
Award, the Leica Medal of Excellence,
and an Overseas Press Club Award,
and Panama. His
Beirut: City of
and Black in
© JACQUELINE GEERING
America (1997). He has shot stills for
movies directed by John Singleton,
Robert Altman, Carl Franklin and
Michael Caton-Jones. A full member
of Magnum Photos since 1988, he is a
former Nieman Fellow at Harvard and
is now clinical professor of journalism
at the University of Texas.
Eli REEd: I had a look at your pictures. You have a certain feel that’s very honest. The portraits I was seeing,
some I wasn’t crazy about but the majority were really
WaynE laWREncE: Thank you.
REEd: The hardest thing is to edit your own stuff.
Yesterday I was at the studio, I was finding negatives from
1970. I was really shocked how much I liked the pictures.
laWREncE: That’s interesting. This project I have
been working on in the Bronx, at Orchard Beach, I just
made contacts for the first time in four years. I’m surprised at all the work that I overlooked. I know exactly
what you are talking about.
REEd: You have to do stuff for yourself that you like,
and not get side-tracked on the other nonsense. The
other nonsense will lead you astray.
laWREncE: What do you mean by “the other
REEd: The other nonsense is other people saying, “Oh
that looks great, I really like that.” I don’t mean ignore
what other people say. I worked at a newspaper, and
the best thing was getting feedback from readers about
photos in the paper. But at the same time, you have to
make the conscious decision [about] what you are trying
to say, and ask: Did it work? How honest was it? Did you
really get into the moment?
laWREncE: When did you know you wanted to be
laWREncE: It was when I was going through a
tough period in my life that I first saw your work. I was
working as a carpenter in Reseda, California. I was between jobs and collecting unemployment when my
license and registration expired. One day while sitting
in an intersection in my car a cop pulled me over and
asked to see my license and registration. I was arrested
on the spot. It was a Friday so I spent five days in the
At that point I decided I wasn’t going to be a carpenter anymore. I needed to find something that I
would really enjoy doing. I started going to the public
library trying to figure out what I would do. Your book
was one of maybe two photo books in this library. It
basically set me on the path that I’m on now. I read
the preface by Gordon Parks, where he congratulated
you on being the first African American to be accepted
WaynE laWREncE, who studied at
Brooks Institute of Photography and
is represented by Institute for Artist
Management, has been published in
The Sunday Times Magazine, Mother
Jones, COLORS, Vibe, New York, XXL
and Repubblica XL. His images have
at the Open
© NICOLE LAWRENCE
and elsewhere. Selected for PDN ’s
30 in 2010, he has won the Sony
Emerging Photographer Award and
was twice selected for the PDN Photo
Reed and Lawrence spoke in June via
Skype; Reed was in his office in Austin,
and Lawrence was in New York City.
© ELI REED/COUR TES Y MAGNUM PHO TOS
From Eli Reed’s book, Black in America : an image of a groom with his ring bearer, Beaufort, South Carolina, 1984.