AUSTIN, Texas — A new book from the University of Texas Press presents the first career retrospective of Eli Reed, one of America’s leading contemporary photojournalists and the first African American member of Magnum Photos. Eli Reed: A Long Walk Home will be published May 15.
An award-winning documentary photographer and faculty member in the School of Journalism at The University of Texas at Austin, Reed’s “long walk” has been a journey that has taken him from a low-income housing project in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to Harvard University and to membership in the elite international photojournalists’ collective, Magnum Photos, whose collection is owned by UT Austin’s Harry Ransom Center.
“My personal journey on this long road has been a meditation about what it means to be a human being, and I have tried to capture the complicated beauty and reality of life in a visual form,” Reed writes in the preface. “I started photographing early and the end-sight continues to evolve, not quite manageable but dear to the heart in a clean-cut way. Life moves on and work continues. I realize that I have learned much, but at the same time I watch the ticking clock in despair. I have learned from my father and mother and from my day-to-day life—and the lessons continue in the present. In my mind, there is a limited explanation for why we are here.”
Reed’s quest to understand “what it means to be a human being” has given him an extraordinary empathy with the people he photographs, whether they are Lost Boys in Sudan, the poor in America, or actors in Hollywood. In a photographic career spanning five decades, Reed has been the recipient of the World Understanding Award from POYi (Pictures of the Year International), the Lucie Award for Achievement in Documentary, the World Press Award, the Leica Medal of Excellence, the Overseas Press Club Award and a Nieman fellowship at Harvard. He also has been a runner-up for a Pulitzer Prize.
Consisting of over 250 images that span the full range of his subjects and his evolution as a photographer, the photographs in Eli Reed are a visual summation of the human condition. They include examples of Reed’s early work; a broad selection of images of people from New York to California that constitutes a brilliant collective portrait of the social, cultural and economic experiences of Americans in our time; images of life and conflict in Africa, the Middle East, Haiti, Central America, England, Spain, South America and China; portraits of women and Hollywood actors; and self-portraits. Reed’s artist statement and an introduction by author Paul Theroux, whom Reed met while working in Africa, complete the volume.
A Magnum photographer since 1988, Reed is the author of two highly praised books, Black in America, a 20-year survey of the African American experience, and Beirut: City of Regrets. He is also a member of the Kamoinge photographers’ collective and an honorary member of the Society of Motion Picture Still Photographers. Reed has lectured and taught at the International Center of Photography, Columbia University, the Smithsonian, New York University and Harvard University. He currently serves as clinical professor of photojournalism at The University of Texas at Austin.
The University of Texas Press, founded in 1950, is a scholarly publisher that is part of The University of Texas at Austin. For more information on the book, please visit www.utexaspress.com.
[A selection of images from the book was recently featured on The New York Times Lens blog.]