Harlem Postcards
September–October 2023

Aug 16Oct 18, 2023

Throughout the twentieth century, Harlem has been regarded as a beacon of African American history and culture. Sites such as the Apollo Theater, Abyssinian Baptist Church, and Malcolm X Corner, at 125th Street and Seventh Avenue, serve as popular postcard images that represent significant places and moments in this community.  

Today, Harlem continues to evolve as a center of history and culture. Every day, changes are witnessed by its residents and experienced by tourists and visitors from all over the world. Harlem Postcards, an ongoing series, invites contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds to reflect on Harlem as a site of cultural activity, political vitality, and creative production.

This Harlem Postcard is by Expanding the Walls 2023 participant Diego Mejia. Expanding the Walls: Making Connections Between Photography, History, and Community is an eight-month photography-based program for a select group of students enrolled in a high school or GED program.

Diego Mejia
Scents of Harlem, 2023
Digital chromogenic print
Courtesy the artist

In Harlem, I always notice the merchants selling items such as incense sticks, fragrances, clothing, and other products. When I shot Scents of Harlem walking on 125th Street, I wanted to capture a moment that any New Yorker would recognize as “Harlem.” The fragrance bottles caught my eye— I wanted to frame the different colors of each bottle. Their position also caught my attention because each bottle was arranged in a straight line. These merchants serve as a staple of 125th Street; they have been an integral part of the community's vibrant culture, economy, and daily life for decades.