Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee!

By Kirkus Reviews

It happened with a click!As a young boy in Lenox, Massachusetts, James VanDerZee is introduced to a new device—the camera—that changes his life. Glowing acrylics shot with light show James as he saves up for his first camera and begins to experiment and grow as an artist, while straightforward prose focuses on notable and interesting aspects of his life. Ready for adventure, James moves to Harlem at age 18 and, after working a series of odd jobs, is able to establish himself as a studio and street photographer, depicting other African-Americans in Harlem, from politicians to musicians to sports heroes and from the middle class as well as the more commonly photographed rich and poor. When cameras become readily available to consumers, VanDerZee's skills fall from favor, and it is not until years later, when an exhibition called "Harlem on My Mind" presents his collected work, that he receives the recognition he deserves. Children will be drawn in by VanDerZee's struggles, inspirations, and achievements as well as the idea that photographs can be both works of art and enduring historical records—and that they can be taken by devices other than phones. Backmatter includes an afterword, a bibliography, and a selection of VanDerZee's photographs. A fascinating look at the development of early photography, the life of an African-American artist, and the world of the Harlem Renaissance.