GGG Photo Studio at Christmas
1933 James VanDerZee Born: Lenox, Massachusetts 1886 Died: Washington, District of Columbia 1983 gelatin silver print with applied color sheet: 8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase through the Julia D. Strong Endowment and the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program 1994.57.4 Not currently on view
In the GGG Photo Studio, children gather around a luminous Christmas tree for a festive group portrait. Every child proudly holds a neatly wrapped package, a sign of uncommon prosperity in the year 1933. Two iridescent curtains frame a peaceful scenic backdrop to create a sophisticated environment for this special occasion. After he developed the photograph, VanDerZee applied specks of gold paint, adding pizazz to the sepia-toned print.
VanDerZee was Harlem’s resident photographer for more than six decades. During his heyday he photographed every aspect of community life: weddings, funerals, family portraits, church groups, athletic clubs, and even local celebrities. Notably, he served as the official photographer for Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. VanDerZee took great care to create an elegant environment for his subjects, using elaborate backdrops, props, and costumes, as well as extensive retouching.
A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2013
Architecture Interior - studio - GGG Photo Studio
Ceremony - holiday - Christmas
Cityscape - New York New York
Ethnic - African-American
photography - photoprint
gelatin silver - hand-colored
About James VanDerZee
Born: Lenox, Massachusetts 1886 Died: Washington, District of Columbia 1983