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Guide to the Stephen Harmon Photographs
1942, 1968-2017
 PR 362

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 27, 2021
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Container List

Series D.IV. "Street Portraits", circa 1978-1988. 90.2 Megabytes (455 digital images in JPG format)

Scope and Contents

The series includes images transmitted to N-YHS in 35 emails by Stephen Harmon from 2012-2017 (duplicates sent multiple times have been removed). As Harmon described these in his initial email, the photographs were "made of people I observed or directly confronted from about 1978 to 1985" in order to capture the distinctive look of the period. The series uses the title "Street Portraits" given to the photographs by Harmon, though he also often referred to the series in his emails as "Street People." That title was not used here as that term is commonly used to refer to homeless or other individuals who live on the streets. Although there do appear to be such individuals in the series, there is a greater variety of people in these photographs.

The series includes portraits of a wide range of individuals and groups. These include the elderly, middle-aged, youths, and children; men and women; and various ethnicities. There are portraits of individuals, couples, and small groups. Many photos focus tightly on the face/head of the subject, while others are taken from a distance. Some focus on particular articles of clothing, such as torn ankle socks, or parts of a body, such as a tattooed arm. Many of the subjects are aware of the photographer and provide varied reactions, from smiles to belligerent glares. On the other hand, many photographs are candid shots.

Some of the photographs depict people as they conduct their labor on the street, such as mailmen, bus drivers, musicians,and vendors. Some are tender, such as those of affectionate couples, or poignant, such as those of elderly couples supporting each other, or playful, such as the child in the spray of a fire hydrant. Most simply capture people as they engage with their life routines: standing at crosswalks, walking along sidewalks, sitting on park benches and stoops, reading newspapers at bus stops, or using telephone booths, and conversing with one another. Most of the shots are in outdoor/exterior spaces, but a few, usually taken from the sidewalk and through the storefront window, depict diners, barber shop patrons, and others.

The diversity of clothing features prominently in the series. It ranges from conventional suits and ties to tattered apparel to the punk look of the era to various fashions, including hair styles, and casual streetwear. The photographs were taken in various seasons so the portraits range from the loosely-dressed look of the summer to the bundled overcoats of winter.

Although the photographs are generally not associated with a very specific location, they are all from New York and likely from the Upper West Side/Central Park area through Midtown to Greenwich Village for the most part. The cityscape provides a backdrop to many of the photographs, including newstands, food carts, storefronts, parked and moving cars, taxis, and nondescript buildings. All in all, the photos capture a sense of the demographic diversity found day to day on the streets of Manhattan, and the particular look of that diversity in that period.

Because of the consistency of the overall theme of the series, the individual emails generally include little or no additional context to the photographs, but there are a few exceptions to this.

Arrangement

The series is arranged in the order in which the emails transmitting the photographs were received from 2012-2017.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Digital Folder: 20121002 Digital File : 2_1-5, email Street Portraits (5 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20150409 Digital File : 1_01-98, email Street Portraits (98 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160418 Digital File : 1_01-33, email Street Portraits (33 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160424 Digital File : 1_01-10, email Street Portraits (10 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160504 Digital File : 1_1-5, email Street Portraits (5 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160505 Digital File : 1_1-7, email Street Portraits (7 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160524 Digital File : 1_01-10, email Street Portraits (10 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160530 Digital File : 1_1-8, email Street Portraits (8 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160602 Digital File : 1_1-8, email Street Portraits (8 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160606 Digital File : 1_1-8, email Street Portraits (8 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160611 Digital File : 1_01-10, email Street Portraits (10 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160615 Digital File : 1_01-10, email Street Portraits (10 photos + 1 email)

Scope and Contents

One photo (folder/file: 20160615_1_06) is of the author, Tom Wolfe, smiling to the camera, photographed on 5th Avenue around 47th or 48th St.

circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160712 Digital File : 1_01-10, email Street Portraits (10 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160725 Digital File : 1_1-9, email Street Portraits (9 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160730 Digital File : 1_1-9, email Street Portraits (9 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160810 Digital File : 1_01-10, email Street Portraits (10 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160818 Digital File : 1_01-10, email Street Portraits (10 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20160908 Digital File : 1_01-12, email Street Portraits (12 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20161009 Digital File : 3_01-12, email Street Portraits (12 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20161028 Digital File : 1_01-14, email Street Portraits (14 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20161109 Digital File : 1_01-11, email Street Portraits (11 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20161211 Digital File : 1_01-12, email Street Portraits (12 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20161220 Digital File : 1_01-18, email Street Portraits (18 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20170102 Digital File : 1_01-21, email Street Portraits (21 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20170111 Digital File : 1_01-15, email Street Portraits (15 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20170122 Digital File : 1_01-15, email Street Portraits (15 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20170205 Digital File : 1_01-19, email Street Portraits (19 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20170305 Digital File : 1_1, email Street Portraits (1 photo + 1 email)

Scope and Contents

Includes photo of a man with tattooed arm. The photo was also sent in email 29 (next), but the email that forwarded this copy provides some additional context.

circa 1985
Digital Folder: 20170305 Digital File : 2_1-9, email Street Portraits (9 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20170407 Digital File : 1_01-10, email Street Portraits (10 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20170423 Digital File : 2_1-2, email Street Portraits (2 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20170508 Digital File : 1_01-12, email Street Portraits (12 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20170601 Digital File : 1_01-10, email Street Portraits (10 photos + 1 email)
circa 1978-1985
Digital Folder: 20170901 Digital File : 1_1, email Street Portraits (1 photo + 1 email)
circa 1982
Digital Folder: 20171018 Digital File : 1_1, email Street Portraits (1 photo + 1 email)
1988 November

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