Aaron Siskind photographs of Harlem, circa 1933-1941 1.0 Linear Foot — 1 box; 24 print
Collection consists of 24 black-and-white signed prints by photographer Aaron Siskind, documenting life and conditions in New York City's Harlem neighborhoods from about 1933 to 1941. These were the earliest years of Siskind's long career, and a period of experimentation in which he mingled photography with a social purpose with images emphasizing form and light rather than social content.
The majority of the images feature portraits of African American men, women, and children in various settings: on the street; in the Apollo and Lafayette theaters; in a night club; taking part in a church service; playing around abandoned houses; and posing in the bedrooms and other interior rooms of tenement buildings. A few images focus only on buildings or outdoor settings.
Siskind included these and other images in two photo projects in which he played a central role: "Harlem document" and "The most crowded block in the world." "Harlem document" was sponsored by the Photo League of New York. The second project unfolded from about 1939 to 1941 after Siskind left the Photo League; to a large extent, this project carried on the work of documenting street life in Harlem.
The gelatin silver prints in this collection are all signed by Siskind. They all measure 11x14 inches, with the image dimensions ranging from 9 1/8 x 8 3/4 to 11 3/4 x 9 7/5 inches. The year these particular prints were created is unknown. Some of the images have two copies in the collection; thus, this collection holds 19 unique images represented by 24 prints. Titles and dates originate from those accompanying original negatives donated by Siskind to the Eastman House; titles assigned by a former collector, present on the back of the prints, are also given in a separate note field in the collection guide entry for each print.
Acquired by the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.