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Harlem Neighborhood Guide

Harlem is a unique neighborhood in NYC. Both its past and present are culturally rich and it’s a fabulous place to photograph. Read about Harlem in this SNYC neighborhood guide.

Harlem is a unique neighborhood in New York City. Everyone creates their own mental picture of what Harlem is or isn’t. There was a time in the recent history of New York City when Harlem, like many other neighborhoods, was considered dangerous. But this city has changed. So I am happy to let you know that Harlem is not dangerous even though television shows and Hollywood films may lead you to think otherwise.

Harlem is a culturally rich neighborhood both past and present. It is one of the many neighborhoods that I frequent for workshops, photo tours and for personal interest. It is a fabulous place for street photography and urban landscapes with the beautiful row houses. 

Harlem covers a large territory from 110th Street north to 155th Street. And roughly from Fifth Avenue east to the Hudson River with Morningside Heights at the southwest corner. The name Harlem derives from the Dutch Haarlem who first settled the area in 1658. 

People living in Harlem covers a wide cross-section of Africans and Caribbeans including many who speak French or Patois. While you will find a number of major store and restaurant chains in Harlem, there are also quite a few fabulous independent businesses there as well. I always suggest indie businesses as a method of discovering a neighborhood and giving back to it. You can see some of them listed in Discover NYC.

To give you a brief idea of the wealth of cultural and artistic influence has had on a global basis, you only need to think about James Baldwin, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Puff Daddy, Nina Simone, Marcus Garvey, Count Basie, Maya Angelou, Zora Neale Thurston and Billie Holiday to name a few. 

Harlem is great for shopping, dining and The Apollo has fabulous entertainment including Amateur Night every Wednesday. While people often want to go to see and photograph at a Gospel church, I do hope that you will do it in a respectful manner. People who go to church don’t see it as a performance. It is their way of expressing their beliefs.