The Invisible Man (Harlem, New York)

A work made of gelatin silver print, from the series "a man becomes invisible" (1952).

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  • A work made of gelatin silver print, from the series "a man becomes invisible" (1952).




Gordon Parks
American, 1912–2006

About this artwork

In 1952 Gordon Parks—at the time the only African American staff photographer at Life magazine—brought an actor into the streets of Harlem to create a series on Ralph Ellison’s new novel Invisible Man, which had been immediately hailed as a breakthrough representation of black experience in America. The book’s narrator describes living “rent-free in a building rented strictly to whites, in a section of the basement that was shut off and forgotten during the nineteenth century.” To illustrate this scene, Parks set his camera on the pavement to take the picture, then burned (darkened) the top and bottom of the print, producing an expressive glow around the man’s face. The series, published in the August 25, 1952, issue of Life, illustrated a fiction but also informed millions across America and abroad about everyday life in Harlem. This rare early print was circulated in a show mounted by the American Federation of the Arts in 1962–65.

On View

Photography, Gallery 189 (Corridor)


Gordon Parks


The Invisible Man (Harlem, New York)


United States




Gelatin silver print, from the series "A Man Becomes Invisible" (1952)


33 x 41.9 cm (image/paper/frame)

Credit Line

Anonymous Gift

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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