The Photographer, 1942. Jacob Lawrence. Watercolor, gouache, and graphite on paper. Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2001. © 2019 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
This is one of thirty paintings Lawrence created between 1942 and 1943 on the theme of everyday life in Harlem. The scene is filled with swirling urban activity: an itinerant photographer, located by the jagged flash of the camera, snaps a portrait of a well-dressed family, a construction worker descends into a manhole, a finely dressed businessman with a briefcase hurries to work, and a horse-drawn cart bearing a bed frame progresses down the street. The range of activity here hints at the broader movements of African Americans in this moment, as the Great Migration brought many to cities in the North.