I was walking along the streets of Harlem when I heard the sound of drums fill the air. I made my way toward the music and was pleasantly surprised to find this group of men sitting under the Adam Clayton Powell statue on 125th Street. The group was large—men both young and old laughed and smiled together as their hands tapped rapidly along the drums’ surface. Their cheer was contagious; a crowd formed as the music brightened the environment. Onlookers clapped and cheered as the festive drumming brought warmth to their souls. Even I, tired as I was, tapped my feet and moved to the rhythm. I quickly brought out my camera and began to snap pictures. This is Harlem, I thought, a world of its own full of culture, color and energy.
We created a “Found In Harlem” series focusing on the commodities one finds on 125th Street—African fabrics, incense and oils, books, mix-tape-style CDs, etc—staying clear of the corporate chain stores that are dramatically altering the landscape. We felt that it was important to document what has made, and continues to make Harlem so unique. These individual merchants and their goods are a large part of that. I Love You, Harlem is a celebration of Harlem as a place and an idea, in both past and present.
St. Nicholas and West 125th Street. I sit here watching the people, calling out to them, calling for them to come and read me or have a conversation, but no one comes, no one notices me. I am faceless.
This photograph was taken quickly. There is nothing canned about it. The man in the photograph lived down the street from me. I had attempted to photograph him a number of times, but the information in the frame of the photograph(s) didn't quite come together. Sometimes it is helpful for an artist to stay in an area—to saturate. But other times it can make work tired and stale. As luck would have it, the potential of the image presented itself, and I had my camera with me.