Photographs of teens from Andover and Lawrence hang in their life-size glory beside teens from Detroit, Orlando, San Francisco and New York at Phillips Academy's Addison Gallery of American Art.

You can't tell which teens come from Andover and which come from Detroit -- and that's the point.

In "Class Pictures: Photographs by Dawoud Bey," the New York photographer wants to play with viewers' notion of class -- both socioeconomic class and the literal schoolroom itself.

Bey, a former artist-in-residence at Phillips, started shooting teens exclusively during his time in Andover 15 years ago. His first focus was the African-American community, but at Phillips, he expanded his scope.

"It really grew to be about how images are used to stereotype people and how they can be used to turn those stereotypes around," said Julie Bernson, director of education at the Addison.

This latest show represents the last five years of his work photographing kids from all parts of the ethnic and economic spectrum. He shot students in their classrooms, in poses that seem natural.

"You don't have any sense of which students go to which school, and what their background is," said Bernson. "For the most part, they just look like high school students."

Bey shot the local portraits for this show in 2005, as part of a second artist-in-residence program at the school.

These 40-by-30-inch photographs in the exhibit are accompanied by statements from the students about themselves and the challenges they face. In some sense, the show is a little like a yearbook gallery. It's arresting because of the voice it gives teens about all the problems facing them: pregnancy, bullying, self-esteem and identity.

"There is an incredible intensity," said Bernson. "There is also a relaxed feeling about it. They are being themselves."

After Phillips, "Class Pictures" will travel to other galleries around the country.

"Class Pictures" is one of four exhibits on display at the Addison. Others are "Ipswich Days: Arthur Wesley Down and His Hometown," "Angela Lorenz: The Artist Book as Volume of Knowledge" and "The Discerning Eye: Five Perspectives on the Addison Collection."

"It's amazing how the shows come to be here at the same time," said Bernson, adding that the common element is the connection between word and image. "It's some planning and some serendipity."



If you go

What: "Class Pictures: Photographs by Dawoud Bey"

When: Now through Dec. 30

Where: Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, off Chapel Avenue

Admission: Free

Special event: "A Dialogue on Photographic Representation" with Dawoud Bey, photographer Carrie Mae Weems and Addison curator Allison Kemmerer, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2 p.m.

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