Swimming Pool, Colonial Park, Harlem, c. 1938-1939
American, 1913 - 1955
gelatin silver print
33.4 x 14.9 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 28653)
© Miriam Grossman Cohen
portrait, single, male child, exterior;
For his Harlem commission, Grossman photographed aspects of street life and recreational activities, including this pool built by the WPA. Grossman has created a visually arresting image through the unexpected contrast in scale between the boy and the swimmers and through the shimmer of reflected light on wet surfaces: the boy's skin, the railing, the water, and the pool tiles. The boy appears confident and monumental as his figure fills the picture frame. His facial expression, however, reveals a sense of uncertainty, perhaps about the photographer's activities. The Depression marked the 1930s, an era in which many rural and urban American suffered unemployment and hunger. The Photo League was a voluntary organization involving professional and amateur photographers. They saw art as an instrument of social change and were dedicated to documenting the social conditions of the poor. As a left-wing organization, the Photo League was subject to the investigations of the American federal government. In 1949 the FBI named it a communist and subversive organization. By 1951 the League had dissolved for lack of funds.