In my work I look for the signature of the Spirit. When I see leaves, I see the magic of being and the interconnectedness of all things. This leaf shared the space, elements and moods of the day, and gave respite from the Harlem sun.
The kora is a twenty-one-string harp instrument found in a number of African countries, including Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso and the Gambia. Before I even knew the instrument’s name, I felt a deep connection to its sound. The numerous strings give the kora a complex, layered sound that matches its West African origins. My curiosity about the instrument led me to Salieu Suso, who was born in the Gambia and immigrated to Harlem in the mid-1980s. Suso comes from a long family tradition of kora players, including his renowned father, Musa Makang Suso, who began his training at age eight.
It was a cold and crisp morning, with the light streaming along 125th Street, when I chose a simple path off the subway and turned to walk west. In Los Angeles the previous week I had shown my students the work of Roy DeCarava; his work was a touchstone during my early years as a street photographer. There is a moment when I look at things when they align for a composition that has the essence of narrative. That frozen moment is what photography does so well. A mixture of old with new, and evidence that Christmas has passed—this is my ode to DeCarava.
Harlem Postcard 2 comes out of my many years working with pattern and color on paper and canvas. When I was asked by The Studio Museum in Harlem for an image for Harlem Postcards, I chose this piece because the strong contrasts of drawing and color reference sound and movement, and speak to me of the vitality, culture and streets of Harlem. It seems to have the right beat.