Chester Higgins, Jr., Harlem Spirit

Chester Higgins, Jr., Harlem Spirit, c. 2015.What beauty can you find in a single leaf blowing? What spirituality, lying still in bustling Harlem? Chester Higgins, Jr., artist, photographer and metaphysician shows us with his photograph, Harlem Spirit, on view at The Studio Museum of Harlem, N.Y., March 24 through June 26, 2016 as part of its Harlem Post Card series.

Pleasing texture, softly modeled light or shadow, and undulating abstract form are evident in Higgins' exploration of the leaf in this work, where he strives for the ‘essence’ of the object and its environs. Higgins told IRAAA about his philosophy and approach to art making. “The Creator Spirit forms the unseen background to everything that exists," he said. "I look for the signature of the Spirit. When I see leaves, I see the magic of being and the interconnectedness of all things. This leaf shared the space, the elements, the moods of the day and gave respite from the sun, in Harlem.”Harlem Spirit Post Card. Studio Museum Harlem, Post Card Series.

Higgins work as a New York Times staff photographer began in 1975. He calls himself a cultural anthropologist with a camera and notes in his artistic statements over the years that he was drawn to photography initially because there were things he thought should be appreciated that were not being seen, and figured they would only be seen if he went out and shot them.

He’s had one-man exhibitions at the International Center of Photography, the Smithsonian Institution, Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City, and in American embassy galleries around the world among other major venues.

The intimacy of the post card format, like that of the nineteenth century hand-held daguerreotype, lends itself to the individual’s sense of personal ownership and uninhibited exploration. It will undoubtedly please the artist to know that ordinary people can have a special, intimate involvement with his image akin to the experiences that made the introduction of photography in small format plates so personal to ordinary people in the medium’s first century.   

—JW