Harlem Street Portraits by Harvey Stein is a collection of 164 full page black and white photographs that tell the stories of the inhabitants captured in the photos with reverence and authority. Whether it’s a photograph of a well dressed family leaving a church or a child playing on the street, Harvey Stein visually interacts with his subjects to bring the viewer directly into the scene at hand.
“I love the way he handles light, particularly as it falls on different intersections of blackness. And then there is the brightness that emanates from the eyes of the laughing children, each one of them eager for the immortality of Harvey’s camera.” –Herb Boyd, Journalist, activist and author of more than 23 books.
Stein began photographing the Harlem neighborhoods in 1990. Over the years he witnessed births, deaths and area upheaval. His goal was always to interact in some way with the subjects that he photographs. There is an openness to the camera that is uncommon in much city photography.
The book is sectioned off by theme. One of the sections that impacted me the most shows one person alone in each photo, each wearing a t-shirt with a face (Michael Jackson, Barack Obama, Thug Life). The faces of the shirt wearers, combined with faces they are wearing creates at times a shocking juxtaposition of fantasy and reality.
“Each portrait becomes more than a depiction of a person; it becomes an intimate record of a personal encounter.” – Harvey Stein
This book would make a fabulous gift for one who studies photography, has an affection for Harlem or American History. It would be a welcome addition to any library collection seeking quality examples of portraiture.