© ELI REED/COUR TES Y MAGNUM PHO TOS
It just opened me up to the world of Magnum, then it led me to read A Choice of
Weapons, Gordon’s biography.
I just want to thank you for doing Black in America. That work really resonated
with me because I was struggling, and I saw struggle in that book and I saw pride
and resilience amidst the struggle. I didn’t even know that kind of photography
existed, so to see it and to see people who look like me, I was able to make the connection. I decided right there that that’s what I would do.
REED: I’m happy to hear that. The things that point you in certain directions are
absolutely amazing to me. Like Leonard Freed’s book. I remember it was a jolt when
I saw Black in White America, and Bruce Davidson’s work, East 100th Street especially.
LawREncE: I love that book.
REED: The wonderful thing about the Internet is that you can spread the word
about your experience. It makes you want to go forward. If someone asks, “What’s
your favorite project?” It’s always going to be the next one.
LawREncE: Can you talk about your relationship with [director] John Singleton,
and the films that you worked on?
REED: I had worked on [a] movie, The Five Heartbeats. I decided at the end of that
I was more interested in social issues. Then I got a call: John Singleton is going to
make a second movie after Boyz N the Hood, which was called Poetic Justice. John
has the power, the energy that he has to do something. Have you seen his movie
Rosewood I feel that’s a really important movie. But in general the news media put
different kinds of screens on certain movies that have to do with people of color.
One of the reasons I did Black in America, I wanted to do something that was not
through a filter, or it’s going to come through the filter inside me: what I’ve seen,
what I’ve experienced, what I believed.
LawREncE: You decided based on what you were seeing around you that you
needed to put this work out there.
LawREncE: How long did it take you to complete that body of work?
REED: From when I got the idea in my brain, it was probably 18 years. I did two years
of thinking and 16 years of doing it.
LawREncE: Two years of thinking?
REED: Oh yes, but you see I am the kind of person that at any given moment, including now, there are five different things percolating in my head.
LawREncE: That’s interesting. Because now with digital cameras making photography accessible, everybody thinks he can be a photographer. They don’t understand the time it takes to find your voice and really figure out what you are doing.
REED: Some people are going to rise above the fray and give us something that’s
original, something that’s very moving, that can capture the passion they have.
I feel like in the acknowledgements to my book I didn’t thank enough people.