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Roy DeCarava

roy decarava, roy decarava photographer
Roy DeCarava December 9, 1919 – October 27, 2009 was an American artist and photographer DeCarava received early critical acclaim for his photography, initially engaging and imaging the lives of African Americans and jazz musicians in the communities where he lived and worked Over a career that spanned nearly six decades, DeCarava came to be known as a founder in the field of black and white fine art photography, advocating for an approach to the medium based on the core value of an individual, subjective creative sensibility, which was separate and distinct from the "social documentary" style of his predecessors


  • 1 Career in fine art photography
  • 2 Art historical context and commentary
  • 3 Selected collection
  • 4 Works consulted
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links

Career in fine art photography

DeCarava produced five books, including The Sound I Saw and The Sweet Flypaper of Life, as well as landmark museum catalogs and retrospective surveys from the Friends of Photography and the Museum of Modern Art in New York The subject of at least 15 solo exhibitions, DeCarava was the first African-American photographer to win a Guggenheim Fellowship and as a result of the fellowship, was able to photograph his community and New York City for one year; expressing early creative impressions through the black and white gelatin silver process In 2006, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest award given to artists by the United States Government

DeCarava encouraged other photographers and believed in the accessibility of the medium From 1955 to 1957, at his own expense, he established and supported A Photographer's Gallery in his apartment in a brownstone block at 48 West 85th Street, New York, in which was shown work by the great names of American photography of the period

DeCarava died on October 27, 2009

Art historical context and commentary

Coming of age in the 1940s, DeCarava appears nothing short of iconoclastic in both his approach to photography, a medium strenuously identified with evidentiary truth, and in his esthetic ambitions to, as he said, “break through a kind of literalness,” and “express some things I felt” Maintaining his quest to create a visually autonomous photographic subject of color, DeCarava endured decades of embittering misunderstanding He has pointed out over and over that despite his “reputation as a documentar photographer, … I really never was,” and reiterated his steadfastly modernist concern to achieve “a creative expression,” rather than a “documentary or sociological statement”

His largest work is Roy DeCarava: A retrospective, over 200 black and white photos spanning the late 1940s to the present Another work of Roy’s is The Sweet Flypaper of Life in 1955 Roy speaks on the piece by saying ”in spite of poverty, you see people with dignity and a certain quality that contrasts with where they live and what they’re doing” His Guggenheim fellowship helped fund the project while he spent a full year shooting the photographs for the book He focused on shooting experiences that everybody can relate too

Selected collection

  • Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN

Works consulted

  • The Sound I Saw Phaidon Press, 2000
  • Roy DeCarava, A Retrospective Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY 1996
  • Roy DeCarava, Photographs Edited by James Alinder, Friends of Photography, 1981
  • Ralph Eugene Meatyard published by International Center of Photography, 2004, Introduction by Cynthia Young
  • Thumbnail View Luna


  1. ^ a b Kennedy, Randy October 28, 2009 "Roy DeCarava, Harlem Insider Who Photographed Ordinary Life, Dies at 89" The New York Times ISSN 0362-4331 Retrieved November 11, 2015 
  2. ^ Roy DeCarava and Langston Hughes, The Sweet Flypaper of Life Washington DC: Howard University Press, 1984 reprint
  3. ^ "Museum of Modern Art", American Visions, December 1999 Accessed August 23, 2009
  4. ^ Smalls, James January 1, 2017 "DeCarava, Roy" wwwoxfordartonlinecom Retrieved January 1, 2017 
  5. ^ National Endowment for the Arts 2006 National Medal of Arts Roy DeCarava Photographer, New York Accessed August 23, 2009
  6. ^ Scott, Dread "An Interview with Roy DeCarava" A Gathering of the Tribes Brooklyn, New York: AGOTT Archived from the original on 2005-02-23 CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown link
  7. ^ Abbie Fentress Swanson, "Photographer Roy DeCarava Dies at 89", WQXR News, October 30, 2009
  8. ^ Stange, Maren May 29, 2017 "Essay Post 5: Roy DeCarava" marenstangecom Quotes from the artist, Roy DeCarava Retrieved 7 June 2017 
  9. ^ Robinson, Fern "MASTERFUL AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER ROY DECARAVA" American Visions, vol 14, no 6, 1999, p 20 Academic 

External links

  • The Sherry and Roy DeCarava Archives
  • Masters of Photography: Roy DeCarava
  • "Roy DeCarava, Harlem Insider Who Photographed Ordinary Life, Dies at 89", New York Times, October 28, 2009
  • Roy DeCarava Tribute
  • Roy DeCarava at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN

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