Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat photographed in 1982 by James Van Der Zee

In Harlem in the 1920s, photographer James Van Der Zee captured a side of America rarely seen in those days: black middle-class life. Well-heeled citizens with fancy cars and furs -- and the means to pay for fine art -- flocked to "Guarantee Photo," Van Der Zee's prestigious studio.

Once there, Van Der Zee worked photography magic, posing his proud clientele of the Harlem Renaissance to tell life stories. Many he'd give costumes to wear and surrounded them with props such as backdrops and architectural objects. All told, Van Der Zee's work took on a 'tableaux vivants' quality, styled with a Victorian or Edwardian sensibility. It's these images that most distinguish Van Der Zee's work.

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