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James VanDerZee

Backround
– He was born on June 29, 1886
– Lenox, Mass
– Susan Elizabeth and John VanDerZee parents
– Six brothers and sisters, all very smart, second oldest
– Went to Lenox public schools
– Pianist and violinist when young
– He died May 15, 1983
Family
– Parents were a maid and butler for Ulysses Grant
– Grandfather built house
– Parents moved from New York City
– Art and school came easily for them
– Father moved back to New York and later James and his brother, Walter, followed
Backround of Lenox
– Was established in 1750
– Original name Yokuntown
– Separated from Richmond (town) in 1797
– Near Pittsfield, a big city in Massachusetts
– In the Berkshires
– Was a farming community
– A place for writers
– Then an industrial city that failed to form because of its location
Things the First People of Lenox did in the 1700s through some of the 1800s
– Gardened vegetables and flowers
– Grew potatos
– Started with houses along Pittsfield road
– Streets were made branching off of Pittsfield road
Famous People in Lenox during the 1800s
– Fanny Kemble (actress)
– Catherine Sedgwick (writer)
– Henry Ward Beecher (Protestant church speaker)
– Nathaniel Hawthorne (writer)
– Lenox was the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home
Things the People of Lenox did during the 1800s
– Lots of mining
– A glass company tried to start in Lenox, but Lenox was to isolated for them to survive. They needed to transport it out of Lenox, but it was really expensive to do that because it was glass and could easily break
Famous People in Lenox during the Late 1800s to the mid 1900s
– Edith Wharton (writer) lived half of the year in Lenox
– Some of the Newbold family lived there
– Many rich Boston and New York families lived the summer and fall in Lenox:
the Hegemans, the Schermoerhorns, and the Schieffels
– Made Lenox lively in the summer and fall months because of the influx of people
How he Became a Photographer
– Did not like drawing
– Drew but realized photos could be copied more easily
– Sold 20 perfume packets for an ad and was rewarded with a camera and film producing material in 1900 when he was 14
– The camera did not work but he learned how to use it
– Photography something to do in long winters
– School photographer in high school
– Walter (brother) and him moved to Harlem (1906)
Jobs
Harlem:
– Busboy, elevator operator, and waiter (1906)
Phoebus, Virginia :
– Hotel Chamberlain employee, photography on side (1907)
– Photographed for the Hampton Institute (1907)
New York City:
– Played with the Fletcher Henderson Band, John Wanamaker Orchestra and other groups. Gave private piano and violin lessons (1908)
– Newark department store darkroom assistant (1915)
– Opened Guarantee Photos, a studio on 135th st (around 1916)
– Moved business to 272 Lenox Avenue and renamed it GGG after 2nd wife.
Travel
– Born in Lenox, Mass (1886)
– Harlem (1906)
– Phoebus, Virginia (1907)
– New York City (1908)
Jobs in New York City
– Busboy, elevator operator, and waiter (1906)
– Played with the Fletcher Henderson Band, John Wanamaker Orchestra and other groups. Gave private piano and violin lessons (1908)
– Opened Guarantee Photos, a studio on 135th st (around 1916)
– Moved business to 272 Lenox Avenue and renamed it GGG after 2nd wife.
Jobs in Phoebus, Virginia
– Hotel Chamberlain employee, photography on side (1907)
– Photographed for the Hampton Institute (1907)
Jobs in Newark
– Elavator operator (1914)
– Newark department store darkroom assistant (1915)
Newark
– Harlem rents were hard for VanDerZee to pay so he went job searching in Newark
– Became an elevator operator
– He was being paid double the amount a week that his apartment cost a week
– Found a job as darkroom assistant
Job being a Darkroom Assistant
– Employer did not take time to set up his photo, he just quickly took the picture
– VanDerZee thought that employers method was disgraceful
– When his employer went on holidays James would take over, he would take his time
Gaining Confidence Photographing
– When the employer went on holidays James would take over
– People loved his work even though he was black
– When the boss came people would ask him if VanDerZee could take his picture
– This happened a lot
Leaving being the Darkroom Assistant
– Soon VanDerZee saved up and borrowed enough to leave Newark and go pack to Harlem, to open up his own studio
– This job jumpstarted his career in photography and showed him he was good at it.
The VanDerZee Coming Together
– James, his dad John, and his brother, Walter, were in New York
– James’s sister moved into a house in Harlem
– James and Walter with their families moved in
– John moved in
– Many members of the family moved in
– They had not all lived in the same house for a long time. They enjoyed it.
The VanDerZee Family Dying
– John died of Tuberculosis (1910)
– Mary, his sister died at when she was a teen, because she fell and hurt her stomach
– Charles died of an illness and he was either eighteen or twenty
– This broke the family apart
Influences
– He did not directly influence people
– Influenced throught photos of famous or influential people.
Types of Photos
– Photos based in Harlem, then black cultural capital of America
– Celebrities, entertainers, boxers, and religious figures
– Mostly black people
– Woman
– Family Portraits
– Funerals
Evolution of Early Work to Latest Work
– He did not change his photo background starting in twenties and style of photography in the fifties. Considered old fashioned.
– Then followed trends
Materials and techniques used
– Basic camera that did not work well (1900)
– New better camera for school (1900)
– Calumet box camera (1960s – 1980s)
– Negatives, glass plates
– Inserted objects in photos through double exposure
– Painted backrounds
Experiences
– Experiences the Harlem Renaissance through his camera and pictures
Other talents
– Very good musician (violin and piano)
Relationship with other Artists from the Harlem Renaissance
– He was acquaintances with many of the artists
– He took pictures of them
– He documented the Harlem Renaissance through pictures so that included many artists
Wives
– Kate Brown (1907)
– Gaynella Greenlee (1920)
– Donna Mussenden (1978)
Kate Brown (1907)
– Marriage (1907) brought him to Phoebus, Virginia
– Started taking photography around the town
– They got divorced
How VanDerZee’s Relationship with Kate Brown Ended
– They did not see things eye to eye
– Kate went away in the summers for a long time, said she would only leave for a couple weeks
– James joked, to scare her that next time she left she should not come back, so she left for a long time
– She finally packed up her bags and left
What happened to Rachel
– Rachel was eight when Kate moved out
– She stayed with Kate but visited VanDerZee often
– She was an artist and a great singer
– James missed her
How VanDerZee met Gaynella Greenlee
– Near the end of his rocky relationship with Kate Brown he met Gaynella
– She was the telephone operator at his elavator operaor job
– Both were still married
– James could not see her anymore because he got fired from his job
– They needed another excuse
The Jame’s and Gaynella’s Guarantee Studio
– This was an excuse to see each other
– James had been working with his brother photographing and he wanted to get all the money
– He had been succesful and was the same with this one
Gaynella Greenlee (1920)
– Very devoted
– Named photo studio after her
– Their lives fell apart near the end of their lives and after she died
– Died 1976
Donna Mussenden (1978)
– Helped him come back from the loss of his wife
– Fixed things up
– Scheduled events and made him famous again
– VanDerZee died May 2, 1983
– Takes care of his photos
– Much younger than him
Name spelling
– There are many different ways to spell VanDerZee
– Van Der Zee
– Van DerZee
– VanDerZee
– VanDerZee is preffered by Donna Mussenden his widow.
World War II
– Did not think much about it
– Just a war to end other wars
– Helped business by taking pictures of men coming and going from the war
Impact of Society During Lifetime
– Showed many people of many different times in New York through pictures
– Different styles and time periods in photos
– Different ways to show a person
Harlem on My MInd
– VanDerZee was the leading contributor to the exhibit
– People were amazed at his photos
– Nobody knew who he was
– Became more popular than ever
– Made lots of money
Gaynella trying to pay off the mortgage
– Renting brownstone (had be renting brownstone for over twenty years)
– In 1967 tired of paying rent, Gaynella got a mortgage from a loan shark.
– She thought that the mortgage to the loan shark included the taxes and other fees
– She had to sell her things to pay the loan shark
– She thought it included everything because it was so expensive
– Stopped paying when she realized how much more she had to pay
– It was up to VanDerZee
VanDerZee trying to pay off the mortgage
– VanDerZee got a second mortgage through the bank and he had his friend, an ex judge named Mr. Stout, arrange the closing
– Mr. Stout put the house under his name and took the house
– Mr. Stout sold the house
Eviction
– After Mr. Stout sold the house VanDerZee and Gaynella were told to leave
– The Marshall came and forced them out
– The Marshall took thousands of dollars from the house to pay back their debts
Aftereffects from the eviction
– They moved into a two bedroom apartment assisted by city workers
– Gaynella complained it was different from their fourteen room brownstone
– Gaynella lived in the apartment for 8 years
– Gaynella had lost hope and liveliness, some of her eyesight and hearing
– When she fell and broke her hip in 1976 she gave up trying to live
– They had been together for almost 60 years and she died right before VanDerZee’s 90th birthday
DIssapointments
– In 1970s lost home, second wife died, poor, unkempt, in bad health
– 1976 friend (later became wife) helped clean him up and took over and planned his events
Major Works
– He photographed many famous people
– Photographed everybody with the same importance
– Marcus Garvey’s personal photographer
– There was not only one photo that stood out
– Liked photos depend on people’s opinion
– Many photos went into museum exibits
Major Acomplishments
– Had an art exhibition in the Met called “Harlem on My Mind”
– Became famous and photographed many famous people
Historical work
– Documented the Harlem Renaissance through photos
Honors and Awards
– From Jimmy Carter the Living Legacy award
– Pierre Toussaint award
– Howard University Doctor of Humane Letters (1983)
– From the MET, Fellow for LIfe
– American Society of Magazine Photographers Award
– Photographers Forum Award of Merit
– Honorary Mount Holyoke College and Seto Hall University doctorates
– Elected to be a member of the National Geographic Society
– The MET made him a fellow for life
Legacy
– He showed the fads and the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance.
– Showed important and regular events
– Also how it changed
– His third wife Donna Mussenden VanDerZee still takes care of his photos
– She also does events for photos

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James VanDerZee
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Backround
- He was born on June 29, 1886 - Lenox, Mass - Susan Elizabeth and John VanDerZee parents - Six brothers and sisters, all very smart, second oldest - Went to Lenox public schools - Pianist and violinist when young - He died May 15, 1983
2017-09-06 05:43:11
James VanDerZee
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