I had to dedicate a post to Harlem Renaissance photographer James Augustus Joseph Van Der Zee. Born on June 29, 1886 in Lenox, Massachusetts, James Van Der Zee became the most sought after photographer during the Harlem Renaissance 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.
The Great Migration.
Black Jews in Harlem.
Christmas morning 1933. Notice the beautiful architectural details in this gorgeous Harlem brownstone. Homes like this will never be built again.
Beauty salon. Notice how elegant and stylish these women look.
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.
Woman in Harlem home. Her interior surroundings are beautiful and elegant.
Van Der Zee was well known and sought after for his portrait photography skills.
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.
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.