Five Questions For Don West

By Bridgit Brown

From the Museum of African American History:

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Boston was a leader among Northern communities of color. Black Bostonians traveled and interacted with leaders nationally and internationally. They were entrepreneurs, educators, artists, authors, activists, elected officials, and patriots. This tradition continues. Leaders and citizens in Boston’s communities of color have continued to lead and form institutions that have proved critical to the fabric of this city. Their activism, community involvement, and commitment have led to a better Boston and a better world.

A selection of these dedicated citizens is represented in Don West’s Portraits of Purpose, a collection of life-sized photographs. Portraits of Purpose gives us an understanding of the many people of Boston and beyond who have acted their conscience… and made a difference. Their history will not be forgotten.

Don West, noted Boston photographer, has been photographically recording the events and the people in Boston for over 35 years. He began his career as a freelance and news photographer, making a conscious choice to capture affirmative images of people of color in all facets of community life. In the 1980s he worked for United Press International and Boston’s black weekly paper, the Bay State Banner. West has since gone on a host of assignments with major newspapers and magazines such as the Boston Globe, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Ebony, People and Black Enterprise.

His passion as a photographer has been to capture the unique spirit of people at work, with their families, and in struggle for what they believe. His editorial and documentary assignments have taken him throughout the United States, Latin America, Africa, China, Europe, and the Middle East.

His proudest moments in Boston were serving as the photographer for Nelson Mandela when he first visited Boston after release from prison in South Africa (1990), and as an official photographer for Mel King’s historic “Rainbow Coalition” mayoral campaign in Boston (1983).

Don says, “The camera was a way to discover my own identity.”

Portraits of Purpose
On exhibit through March 2012
Museum of African American History
46 Joy Street
Boston, MA 02114
10:00am - 4:00pm
Monday - Saturday


About the Author
Bridgit Brown Bridgit Brown
Bridgit Brown is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Emerson College ('98). She was a Fulbright Lecturing and Research Scholar in Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa, and her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Bay State Banner, Color Magazine, Black Perspectives Now, Colorlines of Architecture, Exhale Magazine, Ibbetson Street Magazine, and Somerville Review.


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