Photographer’s striking pictures capture the spirit of New York’s Harlem, 1930s

Harlem, a large neighbourhood in the northern section of the New York City’s Manhattan, has long been associated as a buzzing community of African American residents with a spirit that is incomparable the world over. 

In the 1920s, Central and West Harlem were the focus of what is now known as the “Harlem Renaissance”, an intellectual, social, and artistic explosion that took place in the area. To many, the Harlem Renaissance was considered to be a rebirth of African-American arts. 

For photographer Hansel Mieth, who took her camera down to Harlem while working on a project for LIFE Magazine in 1938, she was to capture the spirit that the Renaissance had formed. It is generally understood that this movement took place from the 1920 to the mid 1930s so, when Mieth arrived, the neighbourhood still lived and breathed the vibe that had been enfored by artists, poets, authors and musicians. 

Of the many things she captured, Mieth explored things such as the new way of playing the piano called the ‘Harlem Stride’ style, which was created during this time. Unsurprisingly, Jazz was high on the agenda in Harlem during this period. With iconic names such as Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle, Jelly Roll Morton, Luckey Roberts and Fats Waller all found playing, it is the factor that a certain Duke Ellington took found his way during the Renaissance that history has been kinder too. 

Not concerned by shooting the big names, however, Mieth turned her attention to the real people of the area. The photographer focused on children playing in the street, amateur musicians and women of the neighbourhood buying fruit. 

Here is here work: 

(All images via Time Magazine)

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