Friday, July 13, 2012

James Van Der Zee - Harlem Renaissance Photographer

James Van Der Zee
I had to dedicate a post to Harlem Renaissance photographer James Augustus Joseph Van Der Zee.  Born on June 29, 1886 in Lenox, Massachussetts, James Van Der Zee became the most sought after phiotographer during the Harlem Renaiissance period.  James Van Der Zee moved to Harlem in 1906.  He held a series jobs which included developing photos at Gertz Department store.  Van Der Zee also played in the John Wanamker orchestra and Fletcher Henderson's band.  

James's parents John and Elizabeth Van Der Zee worked for President Ulysses S. Grant.  James played several musical instruments, but the camera became his claim to fame.  James Van Der Zee took more than 75,000 photographers of Black American life during the Harlem Renaissance.  The great migration of Black America to Harlem began in 1915.  Black people moved to Harlem from the southern states and some came from the West Indies.  The Van Der Zee photo collection is the most extensive depicting every day life in Harlem, New York.  

     James Van Der Zee is on the far left of this photo.

 Black Jews in Harlem

Dancing girls

 Large classroom

 The Cotton Club in Harlem, new York

Elegant couple in Harlem, New York

Marcus Garvey in Harlem parade.

 Dance studio

 The beginning of the great migration


 Christmas morning 1933.  Notice the beautiful architectural details in this gorgeous Harlem brownstone.  Homes like this will never be built again.

Interior Harlem home

On the beach in Atlantic City New Jersey.

 The Negro League (The Black Yankees)

Beauty salon

1920's parade on 7th Avenue in Harlem, New York

James Van Der Zee staging a photo taking session.

Marcus Garvey is standing on the right hand side.

Harlem New York

Woman in Harlem home.  Her interior surroundings are beautiful and elegant.

Wedding reception

Portrait Photography

The Barefoot Prophet

 Girl in fancy dress 1938

James Van Der Zee's studio was located on the east side of Lenox Avenue between 123rd and 124th Streets.  It was called G.G.G. Studio.    It was in the above ground basement of a Harlem brownstone.

 G.G.G. Studio

Today the exterior of tyhe studio can still be seen but one of the G's is missing.

 James Van Der Zee

James Van Der Zee
 James Van Der Zee

James Augustus Joseph Van Der Zee and his wonderful legacy of photographs were not "discovered" until 1969 when The Metropolitan Museim of Art held an exhibition of his photographs called Harlem On My Mind.  The exhibition brought Van Der Zee fame and much deserved accolades throughout America.  Van Der Zee had already retired several years prior to the exhibition but came out of retirement to resume taking photographs again until his passing on March 15, 1983.

American society is much in debt to James Van Der Zee for chronicling in photos a huge part of the Black experience over six decades.  Van Der Zee's photos contradicts the way many people think of people of color.  The photos depict the elegance and beauty of Black America which contradicts notions of us all living in urban squalor and poverty.
 For decades during the late 1800's and throughout the 20th century black people embraced the etiquette, elegance and importance of education of the Victorian and Edwardian period.  Evidence of this is clearly captured in the photographs of James Van Der Zee.

 This book has many precious James Van Der Zee photographs.  You can purchase it on from private sellers.  Most of the copies are very expensive but there are some copies left at very reasonable prices.  I paid $19.33 yesterday for a brand new copy.


b burnett said...

Great Site Xenia, I'd like to use some of your wonderful photos on my blog (Click here to go to eyes on vintage.) and I would like to add some to my Pinterest board as well. I hope this is fine with you. Thanks so much.

collarcitybrownstone said...

Yes, go right ahead and use what you like; just remember to give credit and a link back to my blog. Thank you so much for stopping by. Come again soon. :-)