Throughout the twentieth century, Harlem has been regarded as a beacon of African-American history and culture. Sites such as the Apollo Theater, Abyssinian Baptist Church, and Malcolm X Corner at 125th Street and Seventh Avenue serve as popular postcard images that represent significant places and moments in this community. Today, Harlem continues to evolve as a center of historic and cultural activity. Changes are witnessed by its residents daily and experienced by tourists and visitors from all over the world. Harlem Postcards, an ongoing project, invites contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds to reflect on Harlem as a site of cultural activity, political vitality, visual stimuli, artistic contemplation and creative production. Representing intimate and dynamic perspectives of Harlem, the images reflect each artist’s oeuvre in an idiosyncratic snapshot taken in Harlem. Each photograph has been reproduced as a limited-edition postcard available free to visitors of The Studio Museum in Harlem. Harlem Postcards Summer 2005 features images selected from the museum’s first Harlem Postcards Open Call and includes one image created by an Expanding the Walls participant.
Mr. Hill, a famous and infamous advertising creative director for many years, has recently been turning his creative instincts to original photography. And over the past ten years, the juices have been flowing in certain favorite formats.
Chato favors “cropping in the camera”, framing almost all his pictures, through the viewfinder. So you see his photos just the way he saw them, fully realized without cropping. He likes “street photography” – not just people, but the signs and objects and lamp posts and street lights that “frame” our lives. Mr. Hill loves traditional film, loves high-speed film, especially black-and-white, and always looks for the unexpected perspective or angle.
“Looking directly down with the camera, or directly up,” he says, “or looking out the window, not in -- that’s what I like to shoot.”
Chato is currently working on a multi-shot wall installation, as well as a gallery show entitled “Streets, Signs, Sky”.
Mr. Hill is currently Executive Creative Director of Solomon Friedman Advertising, creating award-winning TV, radio and print work for cultural giants The Henry Ford, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Michigan Opera Theatre, national traveling shows and many more.
“Chato”, the familiar name he is known by, came about because he was born in Mexico City, to American parents working in Mexico, whose best friend was a “Chato”, or, “snub nose”. His full proper name is Arthur Norman Hill II. He was born in 1949, favors the gritty urban landscape of Detroit, and visits Manhattan regularly – always stopping in Harlem.
Born 1949, Mexico City, Mexico
Lives and works in Bloomfield, MI
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When I took the photo, I was reminded of the life inside of Harlem. Even in winter, the streets smell of incense and laughter. This image captures the endless energy and motion behind the daily grind of Harlem Streets.
ETW participant, 2005
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"Hydration" is a summer reality that has proven timeless. As a photographer and writer living in Harlem, this community is one of my primary inspirations. As its faces change, property values fluctuate and streets increase in commercial appeal, Harlem remains. Fluid. Cool. Hydrated.
Born 1982, New York, NY
Lives and works in Harlem, NY