Bessie Smith Langston Hughes Lady Day
When I began my interest in the Shakers and Movers of the Harlem Renaissance (Post WWI-Early 30s) as a teenager, I was always fascinated by the amount of photographs that were taken by one Carl Van Vechten, born in Iowa on June 17th, 1880. I marveled how close he got to the many writers, musicians, artists, philosophers, dancers that created an era and body of work that stands strong today. Carl Van Vechten was a writer, a patron of the arts and literature and a photographer who loved and knew his music and whenever you read a book on the Harlem Renaissance or someone from that period, you are sure to see Van Vechten’s photos. If there was an event or a party including a “rent” party, Van Vechten was there, here in the U.S.A. and around the world.
“Van Vechten was born in 1880 and grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a child of progressively thinking parents — his father operated a lumber mill; his mother was ‘a suffragette who kept company with abolitionists.”–Lynell George
“In the early 1930s, Miguel Covarrubias introduced Van Vechten to the 35mm Leica camera. He began photographing his large circle of friends and acquaintances. His earlier career as a writer and his wife’s experience as an actress(Fania Marinoff to whom he was married over 50 years) provided him with access to both fledgling artists and the established cultural figures of the time. Some of his subjects from this period include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, Alfred A. Knopf, Bessie Smith, and Gertrude Stein.”–Library of Congress