The Photographer

Artist: Jacob Lawrence (American, Atlantic City, New Jersey 1917–2000 Seattle, Washington)

Date: 1942

Medium: Watercolor, gouache, and graphite on paper

Dimensions: 22 1/8 x 30 1/2 in. (56.2 x 77.5 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2001

Accession Number: 2001.205

Rights and Reproduction: © 2018 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.