'O, Write My Name'

A Limited Edition Portfolio of Hand-Pulled Gravures

Carl Van Vechten, hand-pulled gravures by Richard Benson and Thomas Palmer


Carl Van Vechten's magnificent photographs of his Harlem friends have, at long last, for the first time, received their due, gloriously reproduced in hand-pulled gravure from the original negatives by Richard Benson and Thomas Palmer. Fifty 9 x 6-inch gravures printed on the finest paper each with a letterpress caption providing biographical information, dates and a brief excerpt from a related work.

"Marvelous!" –The New York Times

Lottie Allen
Marian Anderson
James Baldwin
Romare Bearden
Mary McLeod Bethune
Arna Bontemps
John W. Bubbles
Ralph Bunche
Countee Cullen
Ossie Davis
Ruby Dee
W.E.B. DuBois
Katherine Dunham
Ruby Elzy
Ella Fitzgerald
Althea Gibson
Dizzy Gillespie
W.C. Handy
Roland Hayes
Altonell Hines
Nora Holt
Lena Horne
Langston Hughes
Zora Neale Hurston
Mahalia Jackson
Charles S. Johnson
J. Rosamond Johnson
James Weldon Johnson
Jacob Lawrence
Alain Locke
Joe Louis
Rose McClendon
Claude McKay
Mildred Perkins
Vera Peterson
Horace Pippin
Dorothy Porter
Leontyne Price
Paul Robeson
Bill Robinson
Edith Sampson
Bessie Smith
Maxine Sullivan
Howard Swanson
Sarah Victor
Margaret Walker
Fredi Washington
Ethel Waters
Josh White
Richard Wright

O, write my name, O, write my name
O, write my name... 
Write my name when-a you get home... 
Yes, write my name in the book of life... 
The Angels in the heav’n going-to write my name. 
–Spiritual, Underground Railroad

Ralph Waldo Emerson thought that some individuals lived with such purpose, intensity, and commitment that their lives would come to exemplify the grandness and beauty of the human spirit. He called such persons “Representative” because they stood for the achieved human potential.

The faces you are about to see are of men and women who would comport well with Emerson’s idea. Each has stamped a personal style and character on life and circumstance; so much that the rest of us can experience the world they touched by seeing it through their lives. Each face will evoke in us a shock of recognition, not merely of a personal art or achievement but of an entire people’s struggle against great odds. Each face reassures us that it is in the human spirit not merely to survive, even to prevail, but to transcend.

These photographs were taken by Carl Van Vechten. He saw himself as celebrating black Americans—many his personal friends—in whom he sensed unique and compelling character. He believed that a camera could communicate their qualities. He sought to create a photographic record. Richard Benson has translated Van Vechten’s images into the permanent tribute of hand gravure prints.
–Nathan I. Huggins (1927-1989), W. E. B. DuBois Professor of History and Afro-American Studies, Harvard University

Portfolio of 50 hand-pulled gravures limited to 100 copies
This edition is out of print

Hand-pulled gravures by Richard Benson and Thomas Palmer.

22 x 14 inches

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Review "'O, Write My Name' Photography exhibit displays heroes of Harlem" by Anne Porter The Current Online
February 14, 2000
Review "Review/Photography; The Faces and Lives of Black Achievers" by Charles Hagen

The New York Times, New York, NY 
January 3, 1992

Review “Morris Museum Opens ‘O Write My Name: American Portraits - Harlem Heroes’” Independent Press, New Jersey
January 13, 2011
Review "Rediscovering Harlem Renaissance portraits: 'O, Write My Name' at Haverford" by Judy Weightman

Broad Street Review 
January 19, 2016

Review "Carl Van Vechten: Beyond the Harlem Renaissance: African American Portraits"

The Eye of Photography 

April 28, 2020 

Resource Carl Van Vechten Papers, 1833-1965 The New York Public Library, New York, NY
Resource Carl Van Vechten’s Portraits Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, New Haven, CT
Resource Carl Van Vechten Collection, Photographs 1932-1964

Brandeis University, Archives and Special Collections, Waltham, MA

Resource Carl Van Vechten Collection The Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden, North Salem, NY
Resource 'O, Write My Name' Portfolio Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Resource "'O, Write My Name': American Portraits, Harlem Heroes"

Nowhere Diary 

Exhibition "'O, Write My Name': American Portraits – Harlem Heroes" Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ
January 14 – February 27, 2011
Exhibition "'O, Write My Name': American Portraits – Harlem Heroes" Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
January 17, 2005 - March 6, 2005
Exhibition "'O, Write My Name': American Portraits - Harlem Heroes" University Missouri - St. Louis, Public Policy Research Center
February – March 31, 2000
Exhibition "'O' Write My Name': American Portraits, Harlem Heroes" National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
December 17, 1983 – June 10, 1984
Exhibition "Carl Van Vechten: O, Write My Name – Portraits of the Harlem Renaissance and Beyond" Sharpless Gallery, Magill Library, Haverford, PA
January 29 - August 19, 2016
Exhibition "Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten" Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC
August 26, 2016 - March 19, 2017
Exhibition "Beyond the Harlem Renaissance" African American Portraits by Carl Van Vechten

Keith de Lellis Gallery 

June 11 - September 18, 2020