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VanDerZee: Photographer 1886-1983 Hardcover – October, 1993


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

VanDerZee was the first 20th-century African American photographer to achieve commercial success and fame. Between the wars, he ran a photography studio in Harlem, where he documented the famous and the everyday of the Harlem Renaissance more thoroughly than any other photographer. Thanks to the inclusion of some of his images in the 1969 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition "Harlem on My Mind," he was rediscovered at age 83, living in poverty in Harlem. Before he died, he again took up the camera to photograph many prominent African Americans, including Muhammad Ali, Romare Bearden, and Bill Cosby. Published on the occasion of an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, this first major survey of his work in 20 years presents a full retrospective in high-quality reproductions. Willis-Braithwaite ( Black Photographers, 1840-1988 , 1985) and Birt (humanities, San Francisco State Univ.) provide excellent essays tracing VanDerZee's life and work, while detailed captions accompany the photos. Highly recommended for photography and African American studies collections.
- Kathleen Collins, New York Transit Museum Archives, Brooklyn
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N Abrams / National Portrait Gallery; 1st edition (October 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810939231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810939233
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 9 x 11.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,018,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By MKoz on May 2, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When watching Ken Burn's "Jazz" on television, look for Vanderzee's contribution; when viewing Ken Burns' "Baseball" on video, look for Vanderzee's contribution; when you see images of African-Americans sitting in parlors, going to church in their Sunday finest, or heading off to war, their hearts full of patriotism even in the midst of racial separatism, look for Vanderzee's contribution - he was there. Our history is so much more than what we have seen on television and read in the newspapers; we are so much more than the victimized remains of a harsh and unjustice past; we have survived and found dignity in the most bizarre places, and Vanderzee and other photographers like him went to these places and perserved a dignity that is only now being revealed. Thank you Ms. Willis.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is exceptional treatment of VanDerZee's photography and the role he played in the development of twentieth century photography. His use of the discipline to represent African American role in 20th century American history and photography. Most cities had at least one serious African American photographer who helped document black life in that city. His use of photography as survival tool and the expression of life in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance.
VanDerZee's work survived the most incredible changes in the field of photography i.e. from flash powder to the electronic flash. In VanDerZee's work you can find portraits of great historical African Americans such as Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Dubois, Romare Bearden, Muhammed Ali, Bill Cosby and many hard working African Americans.VanDerZee photographed for eighty plus years. This book should be read and study by all beginning photographers so that the must understand what one must do to survive in the discipline.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Scanlon VINE VOICE on January 6, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Finally a retrospective which treats its subject with a respect and quiet dignity similar to that which the subject treated his his subjects, almost exclusively African American and of Harlem, drawing from a silent space deeply within each subject a joy, life, profundity and worth others were incapable of seeing, or admitting.

An excellent collection well selected from the enormous output of this excellent portrait photographer. Better to go for the hardcover edition than the fragile, spine-cracking paperback, as you continually run back to consult and to see these breakthroughs always.

An excellent learning model and guide for all photographers operating today, even far better than viewing Cartier Bresson, etc.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By RDKirk on March 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is American history that is hard to find in any other way. It's a genuine "coffee table" book in my house, and one that sparks a lot of interest. It's been especially interesting to young people in the Net Generation who otherwise have no idea that Black Americans in the past were at such high levels of achievement and self-esteem, or that Black American society was proud culture in itself...and very cool.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By RLR on May 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
Back in the summer of 1980 I attended an exhibit of Mr. Van der Zee's photographs at the Oakland Museum (Oakland, CA). Mr. Van der Zee was there and autographed a promotional poster of the exhibit. He was about 93 or 94 years of age at the time. Entertainer Eartha Kitt was also at the exhibit and autographed the poster next to Mr. Van der Zee's autograph. I have the poster framed and it is hanging in my living room in Honolulu, HI. Wow! What a collectors item.
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By Kathy Watts on January 4, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautiful book!
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