James Van Der Zee

Portrait photographer James Van Der Zee is best known for chronicling the growing middle class in Harlem, New York, during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s. His hundreds of photographs do more than just document; they celebrate the lives of Harlem residents, capturing the personalities and aspirations of celebrities and ordinary people in his studio and in the vibrant and prosperous neighborhood. Often portraying a degree of affluence, Van Der Zee’s work allowed African Americans to see themselves as “the center of the universe,” encouraging a sense of racial pride.

Source: Smithsonian American Art Museum