HW1 – Daniel Oliverio

Photograph: A Woman Waiting in the Doorway, 1976 by Dawoud Bey (photo #4 of 22)


I chose the photo “A Woman Waiting in the Doorway, 1976” by Dawoud Bey because it is a simple photograph that makes me contemplate who the subject is, what she may be thinking and what the current state of affairs around her may be. I am immediately drawn to her face where her expression seems serious and pensive. It is unclear if she is looking at something specific in the distance, or if she may be lost in thought. She is well dressed, while the backdrops of the doors and walls are weathered, suggesting she is presenting a different self compared to where she lives and/or works, which would not be surprising considering the year the photograph was taken was one of the darkest times in New York City’s history and barely past the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960’s. Although her overall expression is hard to read, the overall content suggests an idea of hope, and her looking off into the distance can be understood as her looking to the future. I see her as a woman who has lived through struggle but will not let that keep her from moving forward, despite the state of affairs around her.

The woman is set against a geometric background of wood and glass doors making a pattern of perpendicular straight lines.  This helps the organic shape of her body pop out from the background. The highlights from the sun on her face and front of her body also contrast with the dark shadows on the left side of the doorway, giving the figure more prominence as she emerges from the darkness of the doorway. The balance between objects in this image is asymmetrical as the figure is located on the line between the first and second third of the photo. The balance gives a sense of space as the minimal variation in the lines of the doorway constrict the perspective of the surroundings.

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One Response to HW1 – Daniel Oliverio

  1. rmichals says:

    Excellent. I too love how she emerges from the dark. I find it interesting that you suggest that the photo presents her as presenting a different self than her circumstances. I certainly think it was part of Bey’s agenda to change the image of Harlem. This could be stated as presenting the residents dignity despite the poor conditions of the built environment around them.

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