Beginning in 1916, James Van Der Zee (1886-1983) photographed the people of Harlem for more than six decades, depicting the life of one of the most celebrated black communities in the world. By providing elaborate costumes, props, and backdrops, in combination with creative double exposures, expert retouching, and airbrushing, Van Der Zee became renowned for the quality of his portraits. Althrough he gained fame for his portrayal of African-American celebrities who passed through Harlem, Van Der Zee made his daily living by taking thousands of photographs of Harlem's residents, including family groups, weddings, athletic teams, and social clubs. Today, this portrait studio work, made by a remarkable photographer, provides an exceptional document of an emerging black middle class in New York City.
James Van Der Zee: Harlem Photographer contains a selection of 18 photographs from the Museum's permanent collection demonstrating the photographer's range of talent, career longetivity, and dedication to his community.