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William Edward Elcha (1885–1939) was an African-American photographer known for his Jazz Age Broadway photographs of Harlem performers and celebrities in the 1920s and 1930s. The Harry Ransom Center has his photographs in its collection.[1] He also partnered with Percy Tappin, and The National Museum of African American History and Culture has a photo postcard from their studio of the Jenkins Orphanage Band from Charleston, South Carolina.[2]


Early lifeEdit

Elcha was born and grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father William was a waiter at the Haynes Hotel and his mother Cornelia A. Vandall was a painter.[3]


Elcha apprenticed with Springfield photographer photographer George Van Norman. He established his own studio in 1913. In 1915 he joined Aime Dupont Studio, a performing arts portrait studio in Manhattan where he worked for two years before joining Bachrach Studio and then Strand Studio in 1918.[3] He partnered with J. Montanya in 1920 before becoming New York staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier. Elcha had various other studios and partnerships during his career.[3]

Elcha documented performers and social gatherings in Jazz Age New York City. He married jazz singer Mary Elcha.[3] He was friends with fellow photographer James VanDerZee.

He also painted, including nudes, and was busted by New York Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1930, but a judge Simpson referred to his paintings Sleeping Venus, Springtime, and Annunciation as masterful and he was back in business. He photographed Bessie Smith and her funeral procession,[4] Helene Denizon,[1] Kay Hamilton, Don Dickerman, Eva Tanguay,[3] and Johnny Hudgins.[5] In the summer of 1928 he became the Majestic Theatrical Circuit's photographer. He operated Progress Studio.

Elcha died of a heart attack November 3, 1939[3] at his home at 225 West 112th Street.

Photographer Anthony Barboza researched Elcha and wrote an article illustrated with a couple dozen Elcha photos in American Legacy magazine in 2007.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Scholar explores rich collections of stage photographs April 8, 2014 By Gabrielle Inhofe".
  2. ^ "NMAAHC Collections Search". National Museum of African American History and Culture.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Edward Elcha | Broadway Photographs".
  4. ^ Albertson, Chris (March 1, 2005). "Bessie". Yale University Press.
  5. ^ "Johnny Hudgins". International Center of Photography. February 25, 2016.
  6. ^ Eddie Elcha's Harlem Stage, Photo Essay, 1920s (2007) American Legacy

External linksEdit