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Hank O'Neal Shadow Man photographic prints

Identifier: NS-05-03-02


Seven black and white photographic prints by New York-based photographer Hank O'Neal, from a series documenting artist Richard Hambleton's Shadow Man paintings, which were painted on the walls of buildings around Manhattan's East Village in 1981 and 1982.


  • photographed 1982
  • printed 2013



3 Folders (3 oversized folders)

Scope and Contents

According to a statement on the photographer's website, Hank O'Neal sought to capture artist Richard Hambleton's Shadowman paintings, originally painted onto the walls of buildings between 1981 and 1982 in the still-ungentrified neighborhood known as the East Village on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. O'Neal states, "I was drawn to them because of their energy, and that they were a magnet for other graffiti artists. The ironic way in which some had been defaced made for very arresting images." The seven prints in this collection represent Images 15, 24, 30, 41, 44, and 47 of O'Neal's original series, as well as one print that could not be matched to the numbered series.

While O'Neal took these photographs in 1982, the prints, which measure 17 x 22 inches, were made in 2013 for the exhibition, Masterpieces of Everyday New York: Objects as Story at Parsons School of Design's Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (June 27-September 4, 2013). Curated by Margot Bouman and Radhika Subramaniam, the exhibition inaugurated a new undergraduate curriculum at Parsons focused on object-based learning. For the exhibition, the curators invited university faculty and staff to select items representative of their New York experience. New School Archives and Special Collections director Wendy Scheir chose O'Neal's Shadowman photographs as her everyday masterpiece.


Communications and External Affairs. The New School. "Everything in a Single Thing" [press release]. 2013. Accessed June 21, 2017.

O'Neal, Hank. "The Shadow Man." Hank O'Neal website. Accessed June 8, 2017.

Language of Materials

No linguistic content.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact:

Biographical Note

Hank O'Neal (born 1940) who is represented in this collection by his photographic prints of a street art project, taught at The New School between 1971 and 1990. He didn't teach photography, though, as one might expect, but audio engineering, the basics of the music industry, and record production. He has been a long-time board member of the Jazz and Contemporary Music Program of The New School.

O'Neal recounts becoming interested in photography when he saw his father developing his World War II photographs in their Texas home. The family moved several times, and O'Neal graduated from Syracuse University in 1962. A year later the CIA recruited him as an agent, and he moved to New York in 1967, the city he grew to love so much that he quit his job when the CIA decided to relocate him in 1976.

Drawn by his increasingly serious commitment to photography and music, O'Neal formed lasting friendships and work relationships with several of the Farm Security Administration photographers of the 1930s, and some of the great musicians of the New York jazz scene. He considers Berenice Abbott, with whom he worked for nineteen years, his most important teacher. He also collaborated with Walker Evans on a book about Depression-era photographers. Additionally, O'Neal created two record companies, Chiaroscuro Records and Hammond Music Enterprises, built two recording studios, and has produced more than two hundred LPs and CDs. He counts Benny Carter and Dizzy Gillespie among his friends. According to O'Neal, his best portraits were borne out of such friendships. That's why it "worked." "Every time you take a picture, you are part of the story, too. It's a day of your life."

Drawing inspiration from Abbott's documentation of the 1930s New York, O'Neal used photography to meticulously follow the changes in the city, especially the Lower East Side, beginning in the 1980s. The Shadow Man series in this collection was part of that project.


Kinetz, Erika. "Eye on New York, Uptown and Downtown: Hank O'Neal Knows Both the City's Streets and Its Celebrities." New York Times, July 20, 2003, CY4. Accessed June 16, 2017.

O'Neal, Hank. "Biography." Hank O'Neal website. Accessed June 16, 2017.

O'Neal, Hank. "The Shadow Man." Hank O'Neal website. Accessed June 16, 2017.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The prints that comprise this collection were transferred to the New School Archives after the close of the exhibition, Masterpieces of Everyday New York: Objects as Story, held at Parsons School of Design's Sheila C. Johnson Design Center in 2013.

Guide to the Hank O'Neal Shadow Man photographic prints
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
August 1, 2017
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