Profile: James Latimer Allen (1907-1977)

James Latimer Allen was a photographer and portraitist known for his images of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s.

Biography

Allen was born in New York City, and by the late 1920s, he built a photography studio in which many of the elites from the era was photographed. Among the figures he photographed includes Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, Alain Locke, and Carl Van Vechten.

Artistic work

His work showed a “purposeful uniformity” that he believed captured this idea of an upper-class, well-educated African American. All of his subjects were well dressed, and photographed with a soft-focus, similar to that of portraits of intelligentsia at that time. These images were called portraits of distinction, and featured important figures to the Harlem Renaissance such as Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen.

Posthumous publicity

His work was exhibited at Yale University Art Gallery in 1999. He was awarded a $50 commission prize by the Harmon Foundation for his work in photography as a Negro artist. The show in 1933, however, was said to not be very representative of the work being done nationwide by Negro artists.

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