Currently on exhibit (through October 25, 2009) at the Studio Museum in Harlem is a photography show, We Come with the Beautiful Things, part of an annual, seven-month, photography-based program that uses the James VanDerZee (1886–1983) archive— housed at The Studio Museum in Harlem— as a springboard for conversation and art-making. The exhibit juxtaposes the photography of Van Der Zee with contemporary student work. Visit the Studio Museum site for more info.
James Van Der Zee (June 29, 1886 – May 15, 1983) photographed Black New Yorkers and events in Harlem up to, during, and beyond the Harlem Renaissance. Van Der Zee’s parents ‘worked’ for president Ulysses S. Grant. Attracted to photography, Van Der Zee got a job as a darkroom assistant, and after learning the fundamentals of photography, opened his own studio in Harlem (1916). After taking thousands of photographs throughout his life as a photographer, at 83-years-old (in 1969), Van Der Zee retired and closed the doors to his studio. It was at that age that Van Der Zee was finally recognized artistically by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, when they mounted an exhibition called Harlem on My Mind. Some of my favorite photos (I can’t resist lap-cats) are below: