1943: Harlem through the lens of legendary photographer Gordon Parks


These photos of Harlem were taken by Gordon Parks, a young photographer for the Office of War Information who would go on to become one of the most renowned photographers of the twentieth century.

Born in 1912, Parks left home at the age of 15 and bought his first camera in a pawn shop at 25. He made a living as a portrait and glamour photographer in Chicago while simultaneously capturing compassionate images of black life on the city's South Side.

His work on the South Side led to a job in the Farm Security Administration's famed documentary photography program, and later the OWI.

A few years after Parks shot these exploratory images of the streets, storefronts and residents of Harlem, he moved into the neighborhood and shot a photo essay on a 17-year-old gang leader, which won him a staff position at LIFE magazine. He would work there for more than two decades, producing an acclaimed body of work covering everything from racism and segregation to fashion and sports.

Curation: Wolfgang Wild
Text: Alex Q. Arbuckle