James Van Der Zee: A Brief Analysis Of The Harlem Renaissance

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James Van Der Zee was a photographer who was key for understanding the Harlem Renaissance, while also becoming known for his detailed imagery of African-American life. James Van Der Zee was a man of effort. He put his heart into what he loved, that being photography. He took very detailed images and took his time to make the the best images of the Harlem Renaissance. He made a great contribution to the remembrance of the Harlem Renaissance with his pictures, immortalizing it into the history books. James was only 14 when he began taking pictures; something that he would become famous for. The year was 1900 when the young boy, James, answered an advertisement that offered a camera and supplies at 10 cents a piece. He claimed his reward after…show more content…
He lost his home, forcing him to downgrade, his wife, Gaynella, died in 1976, and he was living unhealthy. Shortly after Gaynella passed he met Donna Mussenden. She committed herself to cleaning and organizing for James, finding it obvious how poorly his living conditions were. In 1978 she resigned from her job as director of the National Urban League’s Art Gallery and decided to marry James. Now that he had his young 34-year-old wife organizing his appearances and calendar schedules, James could reopen his studio in her old apartment in the early 1980’s. He took sitting with many celebrities there, such as; Bill Cosby, Lou Rawls, Muhammad Ali, Miles Davis, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Eubie Blake, for 1000 dollars each sitting. James’ adventurous career ended in May of 1983, when having a heart attack only an hour after receiving a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. According to critics, James was an idealist, a dreamer, and romantic at heart. A retrospective of his work - shown at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C, from 1933 through 1944 - sealed his reputation as the premier photographic chronicler of the Harlem

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