The Picture Lady – Martine Barrat

Martine Barrat‘s show “Harlem In My Heart” is at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris until January 6th, 2008, and I spent quite a while looking at her warm record of her over 30 years in Harlem and the many friends she has photographed.

You can see some of the best of her pictures at Contact Press and more of her work at her own web site, which suffers from a rather odd flash interface (the kind of thing fortunately that seems very dated now, but is worth persisting with.

As well as her work from Harlem, there are also a number of other galleries on her web site, though I got too annoyed with the site to look at them all. There are some nice black and white images from the Goutte d’Or (Paris Voice describes it as “a tiny patch of Africa transported to Paris“) at the eastern edge of the 18e.

Barrat was born in Algeria but grew up in Paris. She moved to New York in 1968, at first to co-ordinate a theatre workshop working with a jazz group, later becoming a photographer and film-maker. One of her early films was on youth gangs in the South Bronx, and was shown at the Whitney Musuem in New York as a part of the exhibition with her still photos, “You Do the Crime, You Do the Time“, later winning a prize for best documentary in Milan.

She became well-known as “the Picture Lady” for the images she took around Harlem in the 1970s and later. Her first book, on young boxers, ‘Do or Die‘ (1993) had an introduction by Gordon Parks and a foreward by Martin Scorcese.

You can read a more detailed resume on her web site, in English or French.

It is certainly a body of work that shows her heart is in Harlem and warms the heart of the viewer. It’s work that comes from being very much a part of the community she is photographing, and includes some displays of pictures pasted up like those that she made on the walls of a Harlem community centre.

Peter Marshall

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