James Van Der Zee

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by deretugade69
Last updated 7 years ago

Social Studies
African-American History

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James Van Der Zee

James Van Der Zee

Van Der Zee became known for his detailed imagery of African-American life, and for capturing celebrities such as Florence Mills and Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

Zee became interested in photography as a child and wanted to be a photographer when he grew up.

Van Der Zee expressed his own great pride in the Harlem community by carefully 'beautifying' the photographs he took. He would retouch negatives to straighten teeth, add jewelry, or fill in a bald spot.

In 1968, Van Der Zee was discovered at the age of 82, when a photo researcher named Reginald McGhee stumbled on his collection of 75,000 photos covering six decades of African-American life.

Van Der Zee had become the second person in Lenox (the town he resided it) to own a camera.

He would often set his subjects in dramatic situations: parents listening to their kids play piano, a child speaking on the telephone, a gypsy telling an old man's fortune.

He had taken hundreds of pictures of his family and others and developed them all himself. So in 1914, he signed on as a darkroom technician in a department store. At times he would fill in behind the camera, and within three years, he had the courage and the reputation to open his own studio. He called it Guarantee Photo.


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