Born and raised in Harlem, Shawn Walker has a BFA from Empire State College and is a founding member of the Kamoinge Workshop. He has exhibited throughout the world, including the Smithsonian Institution, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Brooklyn Museum, Rockland Center for the Arts, PS 1 (Long Island City), Trenton State Museum (NJ), Moscow (12th World Festival of Youth and Students), the State Museum (Albany), Danbury Academy of Fine Arts, Kamoinge Workshop Gallery, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the International Center of Photography, the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Harvard University School of Art and Design, and Vassar College. His photographs were exhibited with Edward Steichen's at the Danbury Academy of Fine Arts.
Walker's photographs are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, James Van der Zee Institute, Charles Perry Rand Foundation, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the New York Public Library, the Museum of Natural History, and the Brooklyn Museum. His work has been published in Black and White, Nueva Luz, New York: A History in Images, A History of African-American Photographers, The Afro-American Encyclopedia, Culturefront, Hommes & Migrations (Paris), The Black Photographers' Annual, Light Work, Essence, and An Illustrated Bio-Biography of Black Photographers; they also appeared in the PBS production Fires in the Mirror.
Walker has taught photography for almost 40 years, at schools such as the International Center of Photography, City College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Queensborough Community College, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CW Post, and Columbia University.
Walker is a recipient of the Katrina Media Fellowship (in conjunction with Kamoinge), and has been awarded grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts (twice), Light Work, CAPS (twice), and Columbia University Film Board. He has lived and traveled in Senegal, Nigeria, Cuba, Mexico, and Guyana.