Getty Adds James Van Der Zee, Joan E. Biren, George Rodriguez

George Rodriguez, Los Angeles, 1990s (negative) 2021 (print). J. Paul Getty Museum. (c) George Rodriguez

The Getty's photography department has recently added works by James Van Der Zee, Joan E. Biren, Anthony Barboza, Melodie McDaniel, George Rodriguez, and Shirin Neshat. Together these acquisitions offer a report card on the Getty's Jan. 2021 pledge to diversify collections and programing. 

James Van Der Zee, Family Ties, 1950  (c) 1969 Van Der Zee
James Van Der Zee was a prolific commercial photographer who has come to epitomize the Harlem Renaissance. Though he photographed literary and artistic celebrities, eight new Getty acquisitions represent the vernacular phase of his production, middle-class strivers posing against paper moons and faux spaniels. A 1941 image is a postmortem view of a boy's funeral, with a ghostly second exposure of the child in life.

Joan E. Biren, Leonard Matlovich arrested in front of the White House, 1987
Joan E. Biren was a member of the Furies Collective, a short-lived lesbian utopia. Nineteen Getty works document lesbian life and feminist and gay rights demonstrations. Leonard Matlovich was a Vietnam vet who came out on the cover of Time magazine ("I Am a Homosexual") in 1975.
Anthony Barboza, Ming Smith, 1970s. (c) Anthony Barboza
Ten new works by Anthony Barboza, gifts of the artist, include portraits of James Van Der Zee, Lisette Model, Roberta Flack, Ntozake Shange, and Ming Smith. Barboza and Smith were members of the Kamoinge Workshop, an association of Black photographers that will be the subject of an upcoming Getty exhibition, "Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop" (July 19—Oct. 9, 2022).
John Simmons, Love on the Bus, Chicago, IL, 1967 (negative) 2021 (print)
John Simmons began shooting for The Chicago Daily Defender newspaper at the age of 15. Love on the Bus is among his early street photos. Simmons moved to L.A. and became a Emmy-winning cinematographer. He donated a 2017 picture of Griffith Observatory.
Alvin Baltrop, untitled, 1975-1986. (c) Estate of Alvin Baltrop / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Alvin Baltrop photographed gay cruising spots on the Hudson River piers, sometimes suspending himself from a harness to achieve drone-like (Caillebotte?) perspectives. Trained at New York's School of Visual Arts, Baltrop had almost no critical or market recognition in his lifetime. The Getty bought four Baltrop prints, and another is in LACMA's "Black American Portraits."

George Rodriguez, Los Angeles, 1992 (negative), 2021 (print)
George Rodriguez is a music industry photographer whose longtime personal project has been documenting Latinx life and politics. The Getty has acquired 17 images, some featured in the 2019 retrospective at the Vincent Price Art Museum
Melodie McDaniel, Tagged, 2017 (negative) 2021 (print)
A set of Melodie McDaniel works documents the Compton Jr. Posse, the equestrian culture of an L.A. suburb otherwise known for hip-hop. Tagged is a gift from ROSEGALLERY, Santa Monica.
Peter Hujar, Portrait of Ethyl Eichelberger, 1981
Andy Warhol rated Peter Hujar one of the "Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys"; Susan Sontag wrote the introduction to Hujar's book Portraits in Life and Death; and after a brief romantic fling with David Wojnarowicz, Hujar became a tireless promoter of the latter's career. Like Wojnarowicz, Hujar died of AIDS and has achieved wide renown only after his death. 

Ethyl Eichelberger was a drag performer and playwright who designed wigs for Charles Ludlum. He appeared in a Broadway production of The Comedy of Errors before slashing his wrists in the bathtub of his Staten Island home (AIDS, again).
Shirin Neshat, Grace Under Duty, 1994
The Getty collects large-format contemporary photography selectively. Two new examples are early works by Shirin Neshat and Deana Lawson.
Deana Lawson, Coulson Family, 2008


Loving all these pictures.
Getty is late to the show. But perhaps with Getty's resources, the museum could also focus on the California in nascent photography.
Are there any extant shots from 1839? If no, what is the earliest known California image? Who took it?
Early women photographers? Early Black photographers? Early Asian photographers? Early Latin photographers?
Sky's the limit.