Nicole Small | One on One

Photographer Spotlight: Roy DeCarava

Roy DeCarava


Roy DeCarava (December 9, 1919 – October 27, 2009) was an American painter and photographer who resided in New York City. DeCarava was initially known for his early work chronicling the lives of African Americans and jazz artists in Harlem. DeCarava came to be known as a founder of fine art black and white photography separate from the “social documentary” style of his predecessors.

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 single artist exhibitions, DeCarava was the first African American photographer to win a Guggenheim Fellowship and 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 of the great names of American photography of the period.

Roy DeCarava died on October 27, 2009


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