In 1979, when African-American photographer Dawoud Bey showed twenty-five photographs at the Studio Museum in Harlem under the heading Harlem U.S.A., the exhibition offered a young artist's vision of a moment in the neighborhood's life. Published here as a complete set for the first time, Dawoud Bey: Harlem U.S.A. also includes five previously unpublished photographs from the same period. Bey's vintage images are given new context in an essay by emerging African-American writer Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, who undertook her own fascinating study of Harlem in 2011. Bey, who grew up in Queens with family roots in Harlem, has become one of most widely acclaimed portraitists on the contemporary scene. This handsome book, with faithful duotone reproductions, provides a wonderful opportunity to revisit a classic portfolio of images that still resonates in today's culture.
Matthew S. Witkovsky is chair and Ellen and Richard Sandor Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, and is the editor of Avant-Garde Art in Everyday Life (Yale). Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts is the author of Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America.