Selections from ‘O, Write My Name’ American Portraits Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten

Carl Van Vechten, Dizzy Gillespie, 1955, from the “O, Write My Name – American Portraits of Harlem Heroes” portfolio

About the Exhibition

‘O, Write My Name’ American Portraits, Harlem Heroes is a portfolio of photogravures that includes fifty portraits of representative black Americans– twenty-five of women and twenty-five of men– created by Carl Van Vechten between the years 1930 an 1960.  Thirty-eight of these are presented in the North Gallery.  Each portrait incorporates a literary quotation by or about the subject, and a biographical note.

The portraits are reproduced by hand gravure, a form of ink printing from copper plates.  The plates are etched from film positives made from the original 35mm negatives, and printed on an etching press.  The portraits were produced as a portfolio by Richard M.A. Benson through the courtesy of the estate of Carl Van Vechten.

The works in the exhibition have been loaned generously by Mr. Erwin A. Salk of Salk, Ward, & Salk, Inc.  The firm of mortgage bankers, established in 1926, has a long history of involvement and support in community and urban affairs.  Cultural and educational programs have been developed with institutions and organizations throughout the Chicago area.  The firm distributes many of its resources of multi-ethnic culture and history.  The firm’s president, Erwin A. Salk, is a long-time trustee and former faculty member of Columbia College Chicago.