Legend Shoots a Legend: Van Der Zee portrait of the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

Pioneer African-American photographer James Van Der Zee made a name for himself capturing the people and life on 125th street in Harlem, NYC where in 1916 he opened the Guarantee Photo Studio.

I wanted to share this photo of Basquiat after reading an interview with another famed Black American photographer, Dawoud Bey. This is just one of the shots from Van Der Zee’s session with Basquiat. In the interview, Bey mentions that amongst his wide collection of art, his most prized possession is “a Van Der Zee portrait of the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.”

Van Der Zee lived a long life and shot this portrait of Basquiat in 1982, the year before he died at age 96.

Basquiat almost looks bored while the Siamese cat rests peacefully on his lap. I wonder if Basquiat felt honored to be immortalized by a photography legend? I also wonder, if armed with a camera, what Basquiat would’ve captured…

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