About this artwork
In 1952, Roy DeCarava became the first African American photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship. In his application, the chronicler of Harlem stated, “I want to show the strength, the wisdom, the dignity of the Negro people. Not the famous and the well known, but the unknown and the unnamed, thus revealing the roots from which springs the greatness of all human beings.” In pursuit of this goal, DeCarava frequently photographed people during their commute in New York City’s subway stations. Here, however, he presented an ambiguous moment: a man rests on the subway steps, suggesting vagrancy, a fall, or some other unknown circumstance. DeCarava increased the illegibility of the image by shooting from an odd vantage point and—as was his preference—by using only the limited available light, lending the scene an eerie, shadowy cast.
- Currently Off View
- Photography and Media
- Roy DeCarava
- Man Lying Down, Subway Steps
- United States
- Made 1965
- Gelatin silver print
- Unmarked recto; inscribed verso, lower left, in black ink: "65-6-7 #7"; verso, lower center to lower right, in graphite and black ink: "(c) #39 [in graphite] / Man lying on subway steps printed 1981 by ROY DECARAVA 1965 DeCARAVA [in black ink]"
- 33.4 × 25.2 cm (image); 35.4 × 27.8 cm (paper)
- Gift of David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg