In the summer of 1924, as a departure from his concentration on portraits in his Harlem studio, James Van Der Zee served as the official photographer for the Pan-Africanist leader Marcus Garvey and his organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Many of the resulting photographs were published in the organization’s popular, internationally distributed newspaper, the Negro World. The newsprint medium in which the UNIA photographs appeared in reproduction, along with their editorial arrangement on the page, animated a different photographic vision from that of the gelatin silver print studio portraits often celebrated as Van Der Zee’s defining contribution to American art. This article illustrates how Van Der Zee’s first mass-produced images and their global circulation expanded the possibilities of the role of photography. During the New Negro era, the transformation of Van Der Zee’s photographs into newsprint became central to their significance.
Available for download on Thursday, July 01, 2021