In September 1966, Bruce Davidson went to East 100th Street in Harlem, New York, and spent two years photographing the people of the block. In 1970, 43 prints from this body of work were displayed at the Museum of Modern Art, coinciding with the release of the seminal photobook East 100th Street, published by Harvard University Press.
Harlem has long been a paradigm of both the suffering and soaring achievements of New York’s underprivileged communities. Though poverty and oppression have gnarled its streets, it was here the Civil Rights Movement took shape and the renaissance of African American culture exploded; small stories and big ideas that shook and shaped American identity.
The intimacy and mutual respect between photographer and subject is an essential part of this classic series and indicative of Davidson’s moral vision. The subjects are almost always looking at the camera, challenging the viewer to hold their gaze and consider their desperate circumstances. Some photographs shout to be heard, others are quietly poignant, tender, playful, romantic, and lucidly human.