Winifred Hall Allen

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Winifred Hall Allen was an African-American photographer who documented the Great Depression and the Harlem Renaissance.[1][2][3] Her work explored the role of African Americans within professional and social realms. Her identity as a female African American artist facilitated her ability to photograph within various Harlem communities.

Early Life[edit]

At age eighteen, Allen moved to New York City from the West Indies, where she attended the New York Institute of Photography.[4] She completed an apprenticeship at the Woodward Studio in New York City and ultimately assumed ownership of the space when Woodward relocated to Chicago. She later renamed the studio 'Winifred Hall Photo Studio'.[4] She was married to Fred Allen for many years and trained him to assist in her photography work before they separated.[4]


The initiation of Allen's photography career coincided with the establishment of the New Deal, and she became one of the leading photographic contributors for black newspapers and black-oriented foundations.[2] Under the New Deal, Harlem could be photographed in a more realistic fashion, one that countered previous sensationalized representations.[5] Like acclaimed contemporary James Van Der Zee, Allen's sought to "advance the race" through her work.[5] Allen made a living from photography in the 1930s and 1940s working as a portrait photographer.[6] Her documentation of birthday parties, weddings, club celebrations, as well as a variety of other social occasions brought further attention to the realities of Harlem society.[4]

Allen chose not to exhibit any of her work in galleries or exhibitions. The only photographs that have been published are courtesy of Jeanne Moutoussammy-Ashe, who visited Allen at her studio to conduct an interview.[4] Moutoussammy found three boxes of negatives in Allen’s closet and persuaded Allen to donate some to her.[4] The remaining body of Allen’s work was destroyed by Allen herself, as she thought they held no value.[7]


Most of the recognition that Allen has received has been by writers, who often discuss her work in relation to other female African American photographers of the 1930s.[8] However, her location within the Harlem community has also commonly invoked a connection between her work and that of James Van Der Zee.[9]


In 1986, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe published twenty-one of Hall's photographs, which had never been published in any other source previously.[10]


  1. ^ Prince, Richard (2000). ""Bookmarks: Back in the Day; Profiles and photos offer a rich, historical view of our people."". NABJ Journal. 18.2: 28 – via Google Scholar.
  2. ^ a b Natanson, Nicholas (1992). The Black Image in the New Deal: The Politics of FSA Photography. Univ. of Tennessee Press. ISBN 9780870497247.
  3. ^ "Ebony". Ebony. 49: 21. March 1994.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Moutoussamy-Ashe, Jeanne (1986). Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers. New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc. p. 60. ISBN 0396086098.
  5. ^ a b Blair, Sara (2007). Harlem Crossroads: Black Writers and the Photograph in the Twentieth Century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 31. ISBN 9780691130873.
  6. ^ Ellis, Jacqueline (1998). Silent Witnesses: Representations of Working-class Women in the United States. Popular Press. p. 13. ISBN 0879727446.
  7. ^ Gomez, Jewelle (1996). "A Century of Black Women Photographed". Illuminations: Women Writing on Photography from the 1850s to the Present: 452.
  8. ^ Latimer, Tirza (September 20, 2006). "Women and photography". Oxford Art Online.
  9. ^ Kleiman, Carol (1986). "A Forgotten Group of Photographers is Revealed in Black and White". Chicago Tribune.
  10. ^ "Allen, Winifred Hall". Retrieved March 26, 2019.