“For our #StaffPicksSaturday, I was drawn to Street Vendor, Essential Oils, Harlem, NY, 2014 from Dawoud Bey’s Harlem Redux series, because of the olfactory response I have to it,” states Lavonda Manning, Archivist at #SeanKellyNY. “Jars of Black Ice, Egyptian Musk, Liquid Black, African Gold, Black Soul, Frankincense & Myrrh and other scents are the only objects in focus and anchor the frame of the photograph. These are the names and smells of scents I am familiar with from shopping vendors on 125th. Personally, to me the most intriguing aspects of this photograph are what the viewer cannot see. It is what is cropped from the frame and how the photograph, in many ways, functions as an anchor to my familial memories.
To the left of the frame is where Hue-Man bookstore used to be, and the Magic Johnson movie theater still is. Louis J. Delsarte’s mosaic mural, Spirit of Harlem, 2005 sits directly behind the viewer, once again visible to the public, after the community fought for it to be returned to view after a chain store took over and covered it up a couple years ago. Around the corner to the left is the street where my grandmother was raised, met her husband, and had her first apartment. Five generations of family before me have lived in Harlem and all had or have their own connection to 125th street. More and more, those personal connections are no longer physical spaces, but only memories of experiences. Whenever I am on this particular corner with my grandmother, she’ll point down the block and mention how they tore her childhood building down and how we can’t go see it but wishes we could.” - @ glowlala