fbpx James VanDerZee | The Studio Museum in Harlem

James VanDerZee

James VanDerZee (1886–1983) whose career spanned more than seventy years, is one of the most renowned photographers of the Harlem Renaissance. His comprehensive practice documents a wide spectrum of life in 20th century Harlem, from the everyday to the aspirational. VanDerZee worked out of a commercial photography studio where he carefully crafted his portraits of Black subjects, manipulating photo negatives to achieve a distinctive, soft-edged effect. Due to the economic strain of the 1930s and the increasing popularity of the personal camera, VanDerZee adopted photo restoration and incorporated passport and funerary photography into his practice, along with other miscellaneous commercial and editorial projects, to supplement his income. VanDerZee rose to widespread prominence in 1969, when the controversial exhibition Harlem on my Mind: Cultural Capital of Black America, 1900-1968, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art introduced his practice to a larger audience. His work remains an important touchstone in the history of photography, Black visual culture, and Harlem. 

1 / 7

Christmas Morning

2 / 7

Love and Marriage

3 / 7

Your Face Looks Honest

4 / 7

On the Town

5 / 7

Street Scene with Runners

6 / 7

The Midnight Ramblers

7 / 7

View from the G.G.G. Studio

previous slide
next slide