Eli Reed has been documenting the black experience in America from the time he began taking pictures, forging a reputation for the unflinching coverage of events both large and small. From the Liberty City Riots, to Klan extras on set, the photographer’s time in Florida was varied, to say the least, but shooting Daytona’s black spring breakers was a more relaxed affair.

“Black spring break was crazy in its own way, but the black students seemed to be a bit cooler, they were still young and reckless, but they didn’t seem so into doing really stupid stuff, like jumping off balconies,” Reed says. “I’m not trying to do a hatchet job on anybody. I have respect for what people are doing in general. And that goes for kids on break too.”

The main thing for me is that I'm happy that I've been able to work as a professional photographer. What is at the core of my work is, in essence, a meditation on being a human being

Eli Reed
© Eli Reed | Magnum Photos

Eli Reed started his photography career in 1970 and, having reported on conflict in El Salvador and Guatemala, he joined Magnum Photos in 1982. A lecturer and teacher, Reed’s students have spanned the ICP, Columbia, New York and Harvard Universities. Today he is Clinical Professor of Photojournalism at the University of Texas in Austin.

Reed’s special reports include a long-term study on Beirut (1983-87), which became his first, highly acclaimed book Beirut, City of Regrets, the ousting of Baby Doc Duvalier in Haiti (1986), US military action in Panama (1989), the Walled City in Hong Kong and, most notably, his documentation of the African American experience over more than 20 years.

Spanning the 1970s through the end of the 1990s, his book Black in America includes images from the Crown Heights riots and the Million Man March.

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