Gallery Talk: Harlem Document
By Hazel and William Hough Chief Curator Jennifer Hardin
The legendary American photographer Aaron Siskind (1903-1991) explored the variety, beauty, and poverty of Harlem from 1932-1940. The more than 35 photographs in this choice exhibition chiefly capture people in the neighborhood, in front of their businesses, in churches and rented rooms, and in clubs. The images of children are especially poignant.
According to Dr. Hardin, “While these photographs vary in tone, one senses not only his artistry, but also Siskind’s intense humanity and exquisite sensitivity in representing his subject. These are qualities not always found in documentary photography and ones that demand universal celebration.” The gifted photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks, an African American, wrote that the Harlem Document is “a mirror of my own past.” Dr. Robert L. and Chitranee Drapkin, two of the leading lights of the MFA’s photography collection and strong supporters of Siskind’s work, donated the series.