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Don West

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Information about Don West

Profile image of Don West

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Photographer
Photojournalist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Sushi
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Do It Now.

Birthplace

Born:
11/15/1937
Birth Location:
Boston, Massachusetts

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Photographer
Photojournalist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Sushi
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Do It Now.

Birthplace

Born:
11/15/1937
Birth Location:
Boston
See how Don West is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Photographer Don West was born November 15, 1937 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Elise and Claude West. West attended Brookline High School, graduating in 1955, before going on to study math at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. In the 1960s, West studied with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and was a professional bass guitarist. He taught transcendental meditation in Detroit, Michigan throughout the 1970s.

In the early 1980s, West became a staff photographer for the Bay State Banner in Boston, Massachusetts, documenting the movements, struggles, and successes of Boston’s African American community. During this period, West worked as a press photographer for United Press International. In 1983, West was the official photographer for Melvin King’s “Rainbow Coalition” mayoral campaign. Also in the 1980s, West regularly documented performers, including B. B. King, Whitney Houston, and Diana Ross, at Boston’s Concerts on the Common. In 1990, West served as official photographer for Nelson Mandela during the South African anti-apartheid leader’s visit to Boston on June 23, 1990. The Museum of African American History on Beacon Hill exhibited his work in the exhibit Portraits of Purpose, which was well-received and featured prominent social leaders of Boston’s African American community. West photographed Governor Deval Patrick’s inauguration in 2007; and in 2009, was a Resident Artist in the African American Master Artists-in-Residence Program at Northeastern University in Boston. In 2012, West founded Blackwire News Service, a wire service for people of color worldwide. The Urban League commissioned an updated version of Portraits of Purpose in 2012. Then, in 2014, West co-authored Portraits of Purpose: A Tribute to Leadership with Kenneth J. Cooper.

West is the founder and owner of Don West Photography. His editorial and documentary work has taken him all over the world, including to Spain, China, Paris, Jerusalem, and the Caribbean. Prominent subjects photographed by West have included Alice Walker, Angela Davis, J. Keith Motley, and President Barack Obama during his 2012 campaign trail in the Northeast. West is a member of numerous organizations, including: National Press Photographers, Boston Press Photographers and National Association of Black Journalists. He has received multiple awards for his contributions in photojournalism, particularly for the City of Boston.

Don West was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 19, 2016.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Don West's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Don West lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Don West describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Don West talks about his paternal family's move to Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Don West describes his father's career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Don West talks about his father's siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Don West talks about his mother's racial identity
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Don West reflects upon his family's experiences of racial passing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Don West describes his likeness to his father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Don West remembers his relationship with his parents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Don West describes his family's house in Brookline, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Don West describes his community in Brookline, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Don West talks about William Dawes' ride through Brookline, Massachusetts in 1775
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Don West remembers his early experiences of social exclusion
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Don West talks about the Wampanoag community in Mashpee, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Don West remembers his childhood activities
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Don West remembers the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Don West remembers rebelling against his parents
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Don West describes his experiences of segregation in Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Don West recalls his high school art instruction
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Don West talks about his paternal uncle's career as a lawyer
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Don West remembers the Boston Braves, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Don West remembers the Boston Braves, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Don West recalls his experiences at Morgan College in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Don West remembers working at the post office in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Don West talks about his Boston accent
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Don West remembers reconnecting with a college classmate
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Don West recalls opening the Folklore Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Don West describes the guitar technique of Reverend Gary Davis
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Don West remembers the folk music scene of the 1960s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Don West talks about the blues musician Taj Mahal
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Don West describes the development of his artistic interests
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Don West remembers his early experiences of religion
  • Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Don West reflects upon his early experiences of social isolation, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Don West reflects upon his early experiences of social isolation, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Don West remembers his introduction to transcendental meditation
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Don West remembers becoming a transcendental meditation teacher
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Don West talks about the need for transcendental meditation in the African American community
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Don West describes his experiences as a transcendental meditation teacher in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Don West talks about the changes in the transcendental meditation movement
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Don West remembers teaching transcendental meditation at San Quentin State Prison
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Don West talks about his work with sickle cell programs
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Don West recalls his start as a freelance photographer
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Don West talks about becoming a professional photographer
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Don West talks about developing his photography skills
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Don West describes the Portraits of Purpose exhibit
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Don West talks about his book, 'Portraits of Purpose: A Tribute to Leadership'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Don West recalls documenting Nelson Mandela's tour of Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Don West talks about his international travels
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Don West remembers photographing Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick's inauguration
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Don West talks about his early camera equipment
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Don West talks about amateur photography
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Don West describes his photographic process, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Don West talks about the skills of a professional photographer
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Don West remembers his transition to digital photography
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Don West talks about his plans for his career
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Don West talks about the photography of Sebastiao Salgado
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Don West describes his philosophy of photography
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Don West talks about the advancements in digital photography
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Don West talks the African American Master Artists in Residence Program at Northeastern University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Don West talks about the history of African American photography
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Don West talks about his family
  • Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Don West reflects upon his legacy and how would he like to be remembered
  • Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Don West narrates his photographs