With--RALPH ELLISON, contact sheet of 12 images, 1948. This sheet includes another view of the same alley (see upper center image).
Provenance: Deba Patnaik; private collection, New York.
In 1948, Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison collaborated on a photojournalism project, the subject of which was the LaFargue Psychiatric Clinic in Harlem. Ellison, no stranger to photography, developed the shooting script. The two men roamed Harlem, making images for what Ellison believed would make for "something new in photojournalism." They intended on its publication in Magazine of the Year, 1948, which did not come to fruition. Instead, Parks's photographs were then published in Life magazine. Ellison's unpublished essay until 1964, Harlem is Nowhere, is considered by many to presage Invisible Man. Prior to writing, Ellison, too, took photographs of the area, through which he analyzed the setting of the psychiatric hospital as a lens towards the conscious of African Americans living in Harlem: "To live in Harlem is to dwell in the very bowels of the city; it is to pass a labyrinthine existence among streets that explode monotonously skyward with the spires and crosses of churches and clutter under foot with garbage and decay. Harlem is a ruin--many of its ordinary aspects...are indistinguishable from the distorted images that appear in dreams, and which, like muggers haunting a lonely hall, quiver in the waking mind with hidden and threatening significance. Yet this is no dream but the reality of well over four hundred thousand Americans; a reality which for many defines and colors the world. Overcrowded and exploited politically and economically, Harlem is the scene and symbol of the Negro's perpetual alienation in the land of his birth." Ellison pp. 295-296.