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James VanDerZee

Studio Portrait of Young Man with Telephone
1929
gelatin silver print
9 x 7 1/2 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, purchase through the Julia D. Strong Endowment and the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program

VanDerZee's well-stocked studio was legendary. Sitters could select garments, backdrops, furnishings, and architectural elements to enhance their social standing or even to construct new identities. The added prop of the telephone attests to the young man's advanced technological capabilities. It is a commentary on VanDerZee's abilities as a studio photographer that, given all these alien accoutrements, the sitter appears at ease and at home in his surroundings.