Part of collection of 31 photographs focusing on black culture
In addition to studio portraits, Van Der Zee recorded people and events of importance to the New York African American community, such as this milk booth. Milk booths provided free, pasteurized milk to children and families to promote public health. Millicent Hearst, chair of the Mayor’s Committee of Women on National Defense—the sponsor of this booth—founded, in 1921, the Free Milk Fund for Babies, which supplied milk to New York children in need via delivery and stations such as this. The children in this photograph appear as if Van Der Zee may have gathered them together specifically for the picture, placing at the front a boy holding a jug, to serve as examples of the beneficiaries of the new booth. Milk booths and the Milk Fund represented the kind of social uplift that the Photo League and other photographers of the era hoped to inspire with their photographs.
MD, PHOTOdocument exhibition, March 30, 2012-July 22, 2012