Ming Smith and Thelma Golden on the Art of Placemaking

Ming Smith, Ed Love and Tina Turner, 1984. All images courtesy of the artist and Nicola Vassell Gallery.

For Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, few artists can better Harlem's essence than Ming Smith. For years, the Detroit-born, Harlem-based photographer has harnessed the power of her keen eye and quiet watchfulness to reveal intimate moments in the lives of our culture's most iconic and and complex figures, alongside fleeting interactions on the streets of her adopted neighborhood. For Smith, who made her way to Harlem after graduating from Howard University, life as an artist begins and ends with the Studio Museum. "Before I even went to the Studio Museum, it was already in my heart," she says, recalling a Kamoinge show at the institution that she visited when she was still new to the city. There, she found herself immersed in a community of Black artists, musicians, and performers who were supporting one another's work at a time when the rest of society refused to do so. 

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