35mm camera - A manual camera which uses 35mm photographic film. 35mm film gauge comes in strips that are 35mm in width and can produce multiple exposures/negatives per strip.
Abstract - In the visual arts, a work is considered abstract when an artist focuses more on elements such as color, line, shape, tone, and pattern, and is less concerned with representing a subject from the real world in an immediately identifiable way. While often the image has a source in the natural world, it’s forms may be simplified, distorted, or exaggerated in some way.
Apollo Theater - The Apollo Theater is performance venue in Harlem. Since the 1930s it has been strongly connected with the African-American community with regard to its performers and its audience.
Background - The part of the image that is in the distance and farthest from the viewer.
Bird’s Eye Perspective - In a work of art, when the subject (e.g., an entire scene, object(s), and/or a person/people) is seen from above. The artist gives the viewer a perspective similar to that of a bird flying overhead and looking down.
Blacklisted - A blacklist is a list of people, groups, or institutions who are denied privileges, services, access or recognition. As a term associated with the Cold War and Senator Joseph McCarthy, blacklisting refers to those who were under investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) for their connections to Communist party. Those blacklisted faced damaged reputations, loss of work, criminal investigation, and even imprisonment.
Cold War - A period of military tension, threats, and political conflict between the United States (and its allies) and the Soviet Union (and its allies) that lasted from 1945 through roughly 1991. Much of the tensions stemmed from differences in political values and systems: Democratic/Capitalist versus Communist.
Communism - Communism is a social, political, and economic ideology. While Communism as an actual governmental system has never matched the purity of the ideology, a major goal of communism is to create a far-left socialist structure that eradicates socio-economic distinctions or divisions.
Composition - The arrangement, structure, or organization of elements within a work of art, literature, or music.
Cropping/Crop - In photography, to “crop” means to exclude certain elements or parts of an overall scene when taking or printing a photograph. In other words, a photographer may crop an image at the time the photograph is taken (what is or is not captured on the negative), at the time of printing (a photographer may use a frame device to print only a certain part of the negative), or even afterwards (by physically altering the dimensions of the print).
Documentary photography - A genre of photography that is interested in capturing, chronicling, and/or bearing witness to real-life people, events, scenes, and situations¬—including significant historical events, but also everyday life.
Ellis Island - Located in New York Harbor, Ellis Island was the United States’s busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954.
Foreground - The part of an image that appears nearest to the viewer.
Frame - In manual photography, framing refers to what is seen and captured through the camera’s viewfinder or lens.
Gelatin silver print - A black-and-white photograph printing process first developed in the late 1800s. The paper on which the photograph has been printed has been coated with a gelatin binder containing photo(light)-sensitive silver compounds.
Harlem - A historically African-American neighborhood in northern Manhattan.
Harlem Document - A photography project led by Aaron Siskind and intended to be an extended study of the Harlem neighborhood. Siskind and fellow Photo League members worked on the project for close to four years. It resulted in a series of exhibitions around New York City and in an unpublished book of photographs with a sociological study written by Michael Carter.
Jacob Riis - A Danish-born American self-taught documentary photographer. He is considered to be among the first to use photography as a tool for social reform. His book of photographs entitled How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements and The Battle with the Slum sought to expose the dehumanizing conditions in New York City’s slums.
Lower East Side - A neighborhood in New York City. The Lower East Side was the largest Jewish immigrant community in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Historically, the Lower East Side stretched from the East River west to Broadway, and from Canal Street up to 14th Street. Before the influx of eastern European Jewry, the area had served earlier immigrants, including many from Ireland and Germany. By 1900, as new immigrants from eastern and southern Europe moved in, most of the earlier inhabitants relocated to other parts of the city. In 1915, an estimated 350,000 Jews (along with about 150,000 non-Jews) lived on the Lower East Side—an area of less than two square miles.
Lulav - A ritual object used during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. It is a palm branch bound together with sprigs of myrtle and willow and is used along with an etrog (citron). In the synagogue, these four species, as they are known, are waved in all six directions (front, back, right, left, up, and down) to symbolize the Divine's omnipresence.
Middleground - The area of an image at a middle-distance from the viewer.
Mood - The feeling imparted by a work of art. This is a subjective quality. The mood may be related to the scene pictured, the tonal qualities of how the photograph has been printed, and/or the viewer’s personal interpretation of the image.
New Deal - The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. President Franklin D. Roosevelt developed these programs in response to the problems created by the Great Depression. The programs aimed to help the poor and unemployed, to spur economic recovery, and to make reforms that would prevent a repeat depression.
New York School - A group of avant-garde artists, including painters, sculptors, photographers, writers, poets, dancers, and musicians, living and working in New York City in the late 1940s through the early1960s. Often referred to by other labels, such as the Abstract Expressionists, this is the name the group preferred to be known by.
Ouija - A board with numbers, letters, and select words, graphics, and symbols. Participants using the board place their fingers on a movable indicator which moves around the board to spell out or indicate answers to questions asked by those participants. Ouija believers feel that spirits are answering their questions and that supernatural forces are responsible for Ouija's actions.
Patterns - When colors, lines, shapes, or tones (darks/lights) repeat in a given order.
Photojournalist - A practitioner of photojournalism, which is an approach to photography, such as is typically seen in newspapers and magazines, in which the images create a narrative about current events.
Pictorial space - Refers to the 3-dimensional space captured in a photograph or implied by the illusion of depth in a drawing or painting (as opposed to the flat 2-dimensional space of the photographic object, drawing, or painting itself).
Point of view - In photography, the place and angle from which an artist has taken his/her photograph relative to where his/her subject was located. This point of view is then bestowed upon the viewer.
Portrait - A work of art that represents a person or group of people.
Silhouette - An image whose outline is clear but whose interior features and mass appear as a solid plane of black, whether from being back-lit, shadowed, or purposefully rendered that way.
Sukkot - Sukkot is a Jewish holiday with both agricultural and historical significances. Agriculturally, Sukkot celebrates the fall harvest; historically, it commemorates the forty-year period during which the Children of Israel wandered in the desert. To celebrate Sukkot, a family traditionally erects a temporary structure, known as a sukkah, in which they eat their meals during the festival.
Symmetry - Correspondence in size, shape, and relative position of parts on opposite sides of a dividing line or around a center or axis. In art, symmetry is shorthand for the (more precise) mathematical terms line symmetry or mirror symmetry.
Tenements - The word “tenement” originally referred to any rented dwelling that housed three or more separate families. Today, the term is generally used to describe the kind of overcrowded urban apartment buildings that many immigrants lived in during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tenement conditions were often harsh, with poor ventilation and sanitation. A series of housing reform laws, however, gradually improved conditions somewhat by the 1930s.
Tones - Refers to the lightness or darkness of colors or to the gray-scale from white to black.
Wishing Tree - Harlem’s Wishing Tree was an elm tree on Seventh Avenue at 132nd Street, also known as the Tree of Hope. It was believed that touching the tree or even standing under its branches brought good luck. The tree stood between the Lafayette Theatre and Connie’s Inn, two of the most popular entertainment venues in the city at that time. Aspiring musicians and performers often visited this tree and swore by its magical powers.