When you are centered in your purpose and unafraid to follow your dreams, the limits to what you can achieve are boundless. At the age of 19, Anthony Barboza left his home in New Bedford, Massachusetts, knowing that he would become a photographer. What he did not know however was that he would go on to capture many of the most intriguing and landmark images in American history.

Through his work, he canonized Black American figures to be remembered for all eternity in stunning images that translated their true essence into a photo across the mediums of fashion, jazz, street photography and portraiture.

After serving in the Navy where he worked with his station's newspaper, Barboza went on to open a small studio on West 23rd Street in New York City that would be the gateway for many collaborative photographic projects he would work on. Those captured included James Baldwin, Beverly Johnson, Amiri Baraka, Miles Davis and many more. It was there that he even gave the legendary Grace Jones her first job.

If you ask the legendary photographer what inspires his work, he'll say that he goes into a trance—"eye dreaming" to be exact— where he gets into a mode of deep, almost spiritual inspiration that pushes him to get the perfect shot each and every time. Now, he continues to draw influence from the Black community but his biggest muse of all is his family—his wife Laura Carrington and children Danica, Alexio, Lien, Leticia and Laryssa who have all achieved magnificent acclaim in their own right.

As further evidence of his impact on the world, he has been a mentor to EBONY's own Keith Major, who joins him in a riveting conversation about the art form and his legacy. We also spoke with Anthony Barboza about his work over time and how eye dreaming came to be.

EBONY: How did you develop the term "eye dreaming?"

Anthony Barboza: When I pick up the camera, this thing happens. When I first started, I noticed that I would get into a trance. The only thing I can see and talk to and about is the subject. That's it. It's almost like a dream. I learned that I could transfer this state of mind to the street as well. That's how I'm able to execute certain things when I photograph. I don't know why or how it happens this way.

Eye Dreaming: Photographs by Anthony Barboza
Anthony Barboza (J. Paul Getty Museum, 2022)

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From shooting street photography, editorial fashion shoots to portraits, your work has been highly revered and monumental. How did these experiences further develop your influences, inspirations and how you approached photography?

I never get star-struck or silly over celebrities or famous people I've shot. But I always try to relate to the subject and make them feel most comfortable. I don't pre-plan anything in the studio because you never know what can happen as the subject is in a foreign place.

Through these experiences, I got to creatively direct different projects and build relationships. One of my first jobs was going to Miles Davis's home and shooting him. I asked so many questions because I never met him before and folks were telling me about how rough he was. But after that day, we became friends, and he called me daily. People were so afraid of him that I was contacted to travel to Japan and shoot him because he'd only listen to and work with me. He didn't like the clothes they got him, so he went out and spent $100,000 on clothes he liked, and we did that TV commercial together. I shot the cover for his 1985 album "You're Under Arrest" and the art director called, alleging "reverse racism" because he'd only work with me, so we did that shoot alone. We were close for 20 years until he passed away.

It's really strange how life is.

What ways have you seen the landscape for Black photographers shift over time?

It's changed a lot. Throughout my career, there weren't many Black photographers who would do fashion at that time. There were some, but they didn't last long. I've been on many shoots where it felt condescending that a non-Black photographer would stage the subject in a certain predicament. For example, one time, a photographer—who had a reputation for how they took pictures of Black people— planned to shoot Whoopi Goldberg in a vat of milk.

I always believe in giving back to the youth because that's how I learned. So when it came to me hiring assistants, I would always hire us. Sometimes, I had high school interns and would demand Black ones. In the event that I was unable to find any, or they weren't interested, I would branch out to hire other people of color. I'm proud to see all the Black photographers that are around now.