Skip to Content
Closed now, next open tomorrow. Closed now, next open tomorrow.

Man Lying Down, Subway Steps

A work made of gelatin silver print.

Image actions

  • A work made of gelatin silver print.




Roy DeCarava
American, 1919–2009

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 (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

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]"


Image: 33.4 × 25.2 cm (13 3/16 × 9 15/16 in.); Paper: 35.4 × 27.8 cm (13 15/16 × 11 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions