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Carl Van Vechten
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    (June 17, 1880-December 21, 1964)
    Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
    Journalist, author and photographer
    Music and dance critic for the New York Times
    Wrote the novels ‘Firecrackers’ (1925) and ‘Nigger Heaven’ (1926)
    Portrait photographer
    Took over 15,000 pictures
    He had buck teeth.
    He grew one fingernail long while trimming the others.
    He lived off a trust fund.
    He was a shameless name dropper.
    He claimed that while attending the University of Chicago, he would spend nights playing piano at the Everleigh Club, one of the city’s most famous brothels. (But he probably was lying.)
    A white guy writing a novel about blacks in Harlem with ‘nigger’ in the title? Yeah, there was some controversy.
    Prominent black figures who attacked the novel included W.E.B. DuBois, Countee Cullen and Ralph Ellison.
    A collection of homoerotic photos that he took was placed under seal until forty years after his death.
    He threw racially integrated parties well before it was the norm.
    He was one of the first music critics to argue that the blues were worthy of serious notice.
    He arranged for the publication of Langston Hughes’ first poetry collection and Nella Larson’s first novel.
    He volunteered at the Stage Door Canteen during World War II.
    He was Gertrude Stein’s literary executor.
    He took up photography when he was 52.
    He produced iconic portraits of many of the leading figures in the arts of his time.

Credit: C. Fishel

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