A man with a cane sits next to a table of hats and face masks for sale in Bushwick.

A woman leans into another woman — perhaps to give a peck on the cheek, or to share a secret, under the elevated JMZ train.

Three small children hold hands as a fourth older child plays on his phone.

These are just some of the poetic photographs in Andre D. Wagner’s street portraiture, which he uses as a visual language to explore the American sociopolitical landscape in the 21st century.

For this documentation, the Bushwick-based street photographer has been awarded a grant of $25,000 from the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship to build on his body of work and utilize photography as a medium for examining themes of representation, social justice and community.

Untitled, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 2017 . Photo: Andre D. Wagner.

Untitled, Bushwick, Brooklyn, 2017. Photo: Andre D. Wagner.

The fellowship program, which was established in 2017, champions “individuals who are advancing Parks’ vision for social change through the arts and humanities.” The Foundation also named textile artist Bisa Butler and author and curator Nicole R. Fleetwood as its 2022 fellowship recipients. 

Andre D. Wagner. Photo: courtesy of Ike Edeani.
Andre D. Wagner. Photo: courtesy of Ike Edeani.

“Since my first encounter with Parks’s autobiography in 2010, I’ve considered myself a student of his work,” Wagner said.

Parks was a prolific and critically acclaimed photographer of the 20th century with a deep commitment to civil rights and social justice. Parks was also a distinguished composer, author and filmmaker.

“Over a decade later, I am honored to be awarded this fellowship by the Gordon Parks Foundation, which will provide me with the opportunity and resources to cultivate my own voice as an artist and photographer.”

Wagner, originally from Omaha, moved to Bushwick in 2011. His photos of the neighborhood and beyond, which have a uniquely fluid and authentically intimate quality, are shot entirely in black and white film. The images he produces often document today’s youth culture, the gentrification of his neighborhood, and explore themes of race, class and community in Brooklyn.

Wagner’s work includes a book of city photography called New City, Old Blues, published in 2020. The title originally referred to the racism he experienced coming from Nebraska to New York, but at the onset of the pandemic, the title took on a new meaning.

Wagner also shot exclusive, key images of the 2019 movie Queen and Slim, starring Lena Waithe.

This year’s fellowship announcement holds special significance with the addition of a fellowship honoring Genevieve Young, the former wife of Gordon Parks. Young, who was a celebrated book editor and member of the Foundation’s board, passed away in 2020.

Nicole R. Fleetwood. Photo: provided.
Nicole R. Fleetwood. Photo: provided.

Fleetwood is the inaugural writing fellow and, in addition to being a writer, is a curator and a professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. Fleetwood’s research and writing have focused on representations of Blackness in art, performance and popular culture.

“We are proud to support the work of Bisa, Andre, and Nicole, who each carry Parks’s legacy forward through work that is innovative, inspirational, and critical at this moment,” Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., executive director of The Gordon Parks Foundation, said.

“As we welcome the 2022 fellows and recognize their important work, we also reflect on the pioneering contributions of Genevieve Young, whose accomplishments in publishing and unwavering commitment to Gordon Parks’s legacy continue to resonate.” 

The fellowships culminate in an exhibition for both Wagner and Butler at the Gordon Parks Foundation Gallery in Pleasantville, New York.

Miranda Levingston

Covering everything Brooklyn. Twitter: @MLevNews

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