DeCarava, Roy

born Dec. 9, 1919, New York, N.Y., U.S.

U.S. photographer.

He took up photography in the late 1940s. In 1952 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in support of his project to photograph the people of his native Harlem. Many of these photos were compiled in the book The Sweet Flypaper of Life (1955), with text written by the poet Langston Hughes. DeCarava's interest in education led him to found A Photographer's Gallery
which sought to educate the public about photography
in 1955 and an association of African American photographers in 1963. He is perhaps best known for his portraits of jazz musicians.

* * *

▪ 1997

      In 1996 nearly 200 black-and-white photographs by the groundbreaking African-American photographer Roy DeCarava were displayed at New York City's Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition "Roy DeCarava: A Retrospective" featured a variety of subjects shot by the artist between 1949 and 1994, ranging from pictures of daily life in the Harlem section of New York City to the civil rights protests of the early 1960s to lyrical studies of nature. It also included a selection of DeCarava's remarkable jazz photographs, which captured such musical legends as Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, and Milt Jackson at their peak form. The most comprehensive survey ever of DeCarava's work, the exhibition traveled to major museums in the United States throughout the year.

      DeCarava was born on Dec. 9, 1919, in Harlem. After graduating from high school, he studied painting and printmaking at the Cooper Union School of Art, New York City, for two years. During the 1940s he continued his studies at the Harlem Community Art Center and the George Washington Carver Art School, where he created images of black life. When DeCarava switched to the medium of photography in the late 1940s, he retained his interest in depicting the concerns of his community and began photographing life in Harlem. In his Harlem series he aimed for "a creative expression, the kind of penetrating insight and understanding of Negroes which I believe only a Negro photographer can interpret." In 1952 he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in support of the project, the first African-American photographer to receive this prestigious grant. Of his Harlem photographs, 140 appeared in the book The Sweet Flypaper of Life (1955), a collaboration with poet Langston Hughes, who provided the lively fictional text. In 1955 DeCarava also opened A Photographer's Gallery in New York City, which marked an early attempt to gain recognition for photography as an art.

      A dedicated amateur saxophonist, DeCarava began taking photographs of jazz artists in 1956. His photos present the performers in the act of creation, capturing the music's effect on the musicians rather than on the audience. DeCarava intended the photos for a book called The Sound I Saw, but it was never published. His prints, however, were exhibited in a show with that title at Harlem's Studio Museum in 1983.

      In his Guggenheim application DeCarava wrote that he wanted "to show the strength, the wisdom, the dignity of the Negro people." These qualities are evident in his photos of both labourers in New York City's garment district and participants in the civil rights protests.

      DeCarava left his job as a commercial illustrator in 1958 to work full time as a freelance photographer on assignment for agencies and magazines. In 1963 he was instrumental in founding the Kamoinge Workshop, an association of African-American photographers based in Harlem, where he taught for three years. From 1969 to 1972 DeCarava served as adjunct instructor at the Cooper Union School of Art. In 1975 he ended his freelance career to teach photography at Hunter College. (ALISSA SIMON)

* * *

▪ American photographer
in full  Roy Rudolph DeCarava 
born December 9, 1919, New York, New York, U.S.

      American photographer whose images of African Americans chronicle subjects such as daily life in Harlem, the civil rights movement, and jazz musicians.

 DeCarava won a scholarship to study at the Cooper Union School of Art (1938–40), but he left after two years to attend the more congenial Harlem Community Art Center (1940–42)—where he had access to such figures as the artists Romare Bearden (Bearden, Romare) and Jacob Lawrence (Lawrence, Jacob) and the poet Langston Hughes (Hughes, Langston)—and the George Washington Carver Art School (1944–45), where he studied with the Social Realist Charles White. He initially took up photography to record images he would use in his painting, but he came to prefer the camera to the brush. In the late 1940s he began a series of scenes of his native Harlem, aiming for “a creative expression, the kind of penetrating insight and understanding of Negroes which I believe only a Negro photographer can interpret.” Edward Steichen (Steichen, Edward), then curator of photography for the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, attended DeCarava's first solo show in 1950 and bought several prints for the museum's collection. In 1952 DeCarava was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, the first African American photographer to receive the grant. Many of the photos enabled by this award were compiled in the book The Sweet Flypaper of Life (1955; reissued 1988), with text written by Hughes (Hughes, Langston). In 1958 DeCarava became a freelance photographer.

      His interest in education led him to found A Photographer's Gallery (1955–57), which tried to gain public recognition for photography as an art, and a workshop for African American photographers in 1963. He also taught at the Cooper Union School of Art from 1969 to 1972 and at Hunter College from 1975. He is perhaps best known for his portraits of jazz musicians, which capture the essence of such legends as Louis Armstrong (Armstrong, Louis), John Coltrane (Coltrane, John), Duke Ellington (Ellington, Duke), and Billie Holiday (Holiday, Billie) in the midst of performances. These portraits, which he began in 1956, were shown in 1983 in an exhibit at Harlem's Studio Museum. Many of DeCarava's jazz portraits were published in The Sound I Saw: Improvisation on a Jazz Theme (2001). In 1996 the Museum of Modern Art organized a DeCarava retrospective that traveled to several cities and introduced his work to a new generation. DeCarava received a National Medal of Arts in 2006.

Additional Reading
James Alinder (ed.), Roy DeCarava: Photographs (1981); Peter Galassi, Roy DeCarava: A Retrospective (1996).

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • DeCarava, Roy — (n. 9 dic. 1919, Nueva York, N.Y., EE.UU.). Fotógrafo estadounidense. Comenzó con la fotografía a fines de la década de 1940. En 1952 ganó la beca Guggenheim, en apoyo a su proyecto de fotografiar a la gente de su Harlem natal. Muchas de estas… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Roy — /roh ee/, n. Rammohun /rah moh hon/, 1774 1833, Indian religious leader: founder of Brahmo Samaj. /roy/, n. 1. a town in N Utah. 19,694. 2. Rollo (def. 1). 3. a male given name: from a Scots Gaelic word meaning red. * * * (as used in expressions) …   Universalium

  • Roy — (as used in expressions) Acuff, Roy (Claxton) Andrews, Roy Chapman Bean, Roy DeCarava, Roy Eldridge, (David) Roy Harris, Roy Roy Harold Scherer, Jr. Jenkins (de Hillhead), Roy (Harris) Jenkins, barón Lichtenstein, Roy Orbison, Roy …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Roy DeCarava — (born December 9, 1919) is an American photographer. Roy DeCarava was born in Harlem in December 1919, and lived there through many decades of important changes and developement to the neighborhood. In DeCarava’s youth, Harlem was cultivating its …   Wikipedia

  • Roy DeCarava — (né le 9 décembre 1919 à Harlem décédé le 27 octobre 2009) est un photographe américain. Il fut témoin pendant sa jeunesse du mouvement culturel de la Renaissance de Harlem et fut proche du poète Langston Hughes. Il publia plus tard un livre… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Art, Antiques, and Collections — ▪ 2003 Introduction       In 2002 major exhibitions such as Documenta 11 reflected the diverse nature of contemporary art: artists from a variety of cultures received widespread recognition for work ranging from installation to video to painting …   Universalium

  • photography, history of — Introduction       method of recording the image of an object through the action of light, or related radiation, on a light sensitive material. The word, derived from the Greek photos (“light”) and graphein (“to draw”), was first used in the… …   Universalium

  • A Photographer's Gallery — (March 1955 1957), 48 West 85th street, [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi m2479/is n4 v24/ai 19102849/pg 4 Melissa Rachleff, Afterimage , Jan Feb 1997.] ] New York, opened by Roy Decarava, was an early effort to gain recognition for… …   Wikipedia

  • Liste de photographes — Cette liste présente les photographes qui ont leur biographie dans Wikipédia, par ordre alphabétique. Vous pouvez également consulter la liste des photographes par pays. Vous pouvez aussi consulter une liste de photographes qui n ont pas encore d …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Grands photographes — Liste de photographes Cette liste présente les photographes qui ont leur biographie dans Wikipédia, par ordre alphabétique. Vous pouvez également consulter la liste des photographes par pays. Vous pouvez aussi consulter une liste de photographes… …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.