Harlem says Hello

HARLEM says Hello 8

A strong bass line. A woman fiercely singing the blues. The soulful sound travels the distance to the 125th Street Subway station. Harlem says hello. 


Dark, mysterious and slightly dangerous. If you have never set foot in Harlem, chances are this is the first image that springs to mind. I discover that Harlem is full of contradictions and let’s you try a little harder, before it reveals it’s true beauty. Grey and colorful, open and closed, notorious and welcome, I see it all on my quest of Harlem. Just a few days earlier Spanish Harlem shows grey and closed streets, but on this Saturday morning I’m welcomed with open arms. 

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When I get of the Subway station on 125th Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, I’m instantly blown away by the amplified sounds of Gospel music. I walk smack-dab into ‘reach-out week’ hosted by local churches. I take a seat on the square and watch choirs sing, preachers preach and the audience cheer when they like what they hear. They don’t mind me taking pictures. Some even pose quite proud in front of my lens. 

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On the relative short walk from East to West I encounter the many different faces of Harlem through bold fashion choices, street workers, musicians and protestors. A street photographers dream, but how long will it say this way? Harlem is on the move and the cityscape is rapidly changing. Transformed by developers and ‘urban pioneers’ with high-end housing, yoga studio’s and hip boutiques. I suspect that the rough edges of Harlem will soon be smoothed over. Fitting to the music, I start to feel a little blue. I doubt that Harlem will stay this way and I might not get another chance to capture this vivid part of New York.