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James Van Der Zee’s Photographs: A Portrait of Harlem

Past Exhibition

November 28, 2021 – May 30, 2022
West Building, Ground Floor, Gallery 22

Photographer James Van Der Zee created an extraordinary chronicle of life in Harlem during the 1920s and 1930s and beyond. Residents of this majority Black neighborhood in New York City turned to Van Der Zee and his camera to mark special occasions. His carefully composed, cosmopolitan photographs conveyed the personalities, aspirations, and spirit of his sitters. Some 40 works from the National Gallery’s collection feature Van Der Zee’s studio portraits, along with his photographs of Harlem nightclubs and storefronts as well as religious, social, political, and athletic community groups. Together they provide a glimpse into Harlem’s rich social life as it became an influential center of American culture during the Harlem Renaissance.

Selected Works

Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington

The exhibition is curated by Diane Waggoner, curator of 19th-century photographs.

Admission is always free and passes are not required

Banner detail: James Van Der Zee, Portrait of a Couple, 1924, gelatin silver print, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert B. Menschel Fund © 1969 Van Der Zee