New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

James Van der Zee
James Van der Zee: Harlem Photographer

Across the entry hall from Joel Meyerowitz's show I spotted a small display of photographs by James Van der Zee, mostly of a prosperous, bourgeois African American Harlem circa 1915 or 1925. These small prints (many made later) show elegant people in sumptuous clothes against expansive brownstone parlors full of potted plants, paintings, and richly patterned or scenic wallpaper. Two photographs of assembled Van der Zees in Massachusetts suggest that their world is similar. Other photos expand our view. There is a disciplined squad of uniformed Garveyites–and one of those officers and his wife and son in another handsome parlor. A dancer wears plumes and breastplate; a black rabbi and his congregants pose in front of the Moorish Zionist Temple at 127 West 137th Street. A large group of children in bathing suits suggest another, far less affluent Harlem where kids grew up without access to elegant parlors. This small sample of Van der Zee's early work opened on Feb. 10 and closed on Feb. 24, apparently just a Black History Month obligatory tidbit. Why so limited a time frame? I enjoyed it

James Van der Zee
James Van der Zee: Harlem Photographer

Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Ave.
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212 534 1672

Wednesday, February 10 to
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Hours: Tues - Sun 10 to 5