Most people at Cranbrook have heard of Harvey Croze (1904-1973). From 1944-1970 he served as the primary photographer for the Cranbrook Foundation. During his tenure here, he produced thousands of photographs, ranging from sculpture and architecture to photographs of school athletics, parties, dances, and any number of other events. He was particularly beloved by the Cranbrook Kingswood students for his jovial personality and sense of fun. He even wrote a song called the “Cranbrook Waltz” in 1953.
Croze was born in Houghton, Michigan. Short and stocky, he sported a big, black mustache and a Leica camera. A former long distance swimmer who tried out for the 1938 Olympic team (but did not make the cut), Croze was a painter, actor, and Dominican Republic sugar plantation supervisor before photography became his profession. He studied modern design and photography with Nicholas Haz, took a photography course with Laszlo Moholy-Nagy at the Chicago Institute of Art, and studied photographic techniques with Ansel Adams in Colorado. He acquired his photo processing skills when he worked as an apprentice in the darkrooms of Chrysler and General Motors. And, he served on the executive committee of the Auxiliary War Photographer Service where he shot publicity photographs for the Red Cross and the service men at the USO centers during World War II.
The third of the Cranbrook Foundation staff photographers, Croze was hired in Dec 1943 as photographer and operating manager of the Cranbrook Photo department. Located in the basement of the Academy of Art Administration Building, the department provided a convenient service to the institutions and in order to provide photographs for press releases, the photo department was available 24 hours/7 days a week. Not only did Croze take photographs and process them with his assistant Agnes LaGrone, he also taught photography to Academy of Art students and ran his own photography business on the side, primarily catering to Cranbrook-related artists. During his 27 years at Cranbrook, Croze photographed many well-known celebrities including Carl Sandburg, Frank Lloyd Wright, Basil Rathbone, and General MacArthur.
Croze was also nationally recognized for his photographs and exhibited at the Detroit Historical Museum, the Flint Institute of Arts, and the Smithsonian as well as numerous one-man shows here at Cranbrook. In 1945, he won fourth prize in the San Francisco International Color Slide Salon and in 1960 was awarded a prize in the U.S. Camera magazine photo contest.
In June 1970, Croze’s impending retirement as well as financial deficits of the department led the Cranbrook Foundation to close the photography department. The photographic files were transferred to the Cranbrook Archives where they remain today.
–Leslie E. Edwards, Head Archivist