Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee! by Andrea J. Loney; illustrated by Keith Mallett. 2017. Acrylic on canvas. Published by Lee & Low Books Inc.
Brief summary: James VanDerZee lived in Lenox, Massachusetts with four brothers and sisters and near his aunts’ home and grandparents’ home. A photographer visits and takes the family’s picture. James knew then that he wanted to have a camera also and take photos. Cameras were not popular yet and very expensive. He worked and was able to save enough to buy one and took many pictures of his family and classmates developing them in his closet. As he grew older, he went to Harlem and became an assistant to a photographer in New Jersey. His own way of taking photos caused many people coming in to the studio requesting him. He decided to open his own studio in Harlem, New York. James had the knack of having people looking their best in his photographs. Over time, the camera evolved and became easy enough for people to take their own photos. He changed from taking photos to preserving and fixing old photos. He had a successful exhibit called “Harlem on My Mind” of his collection of forty years of people in Harlem including several famous people.
Comments: This narrative biography also has an afterword with more details of James VanDerZee’s life, some of his photos, and explanations of some of the techniques. He took over 75,000 photographs and was able to capture the energy of Harlem. I think it would have been beneficial to have a camera timeline in the back, so that young readers could understand how the camera changed over time. They may not realize how expensive it was to have a photo taken and that there may have only been one or two photos taken in a person’s whole life unlike now where there are photos taken constantly of a person throughout his/her lifetime.
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