Shawn walker

Born and raised in Harlem, NYC, I see myself as a fine arts photographer with a documentary foundation. I look for the truth within the image, the multi-layers of existence and the ironies in our everyday lives. Working from a Black Aesthetic, my work tries to speak to everyone. For more than 50 years, I have tried to reflect on the positive aspects of my community and to see the relationships between various communities of color. 

A master darkroom printer, I printed my own earlier work. Now working exclusively in digital video and photography, I strive to maintain those earlier standards. In all my work, I have let the images speak for themselves — only using color and my own individual vision to enhance them. In all cases the viewer is an integral part of the art, as he/she interacts with the image. 

In these three portfolios I move from the more concrete/documentary images of the “Ritual and Spirit”/“Parade” series where everyday people get to express the significance of their ancestors and culture to the more surreal “Be-Bop” and abstract “Misterioso” series where found images call to other dimensions of being/understanding.

Finally, I strive to incorporate the spiritual past into our present, so we may learn and find alternatives to make life better: working in black and white and color, analog and digital, still and video/film media. I look into the intersections of dark and light, into the shadows that grow the seeds of existence.
— Shawn Walker


In January 2019, PCPP staff including Karen Gaines and Nicole Kaack began the process of compiling a preliminary inventory of Shawn Walker’s studio boxes, noting the scope of the archive and collection. We were assisted by NYU graduate volunteer, Lizette Terry, and our Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation Intern, Nikisha Roberts.


Beginning in March 2019, PCPP will catalogue Shawn Walker’s collection of final prints spanning the 1960s to the present. In conjunction with the processing project, Lizette Terry and Walker will conduct an oral history survey to trace the influences that inflected the photographic practices of the Kamoinge Workshop, a Harlem-based collective of which Walker was a founding member, as well as the impact that this group of photographers had on contemporary work.


Harlem Series: 117th Street, NYC, 1960s ©Shawn W. Walker

Harlem Streets ©Shawn W. Walker


From Be-Bop to Illusion 1990 - 2014 ©Shawn W. Walker


Misterioso Series ©Shawn W. Walker


Parades ©Shawn W. Walker


Wall Series ©Shawn W. Walker