Roy DeCarava, Photographer of 50s and 60s Harlem, Is Dead

10/29/2009 9:19 AM |

Roy DeCarava Pepsi

Roy DeCarava, whose richest and most hauntingly beautiful subject was the neighborhood where he grew up and spent most of his life, Harlem, has died at age 89. ArtsBeat reports that his wife Sherry Turner DeCarava made the announcement yesterday. DeCarava not only opened doors for innumerable African-American photographers, but also marked a major departure from the dominant style of American photography in the 50s and 60s, which favored a raw, documentary aesthetic.

His shots of streetscapes featured a less forceful focus and direction, instead offering a beautiful, contemplative scene of a community that felt organic and lived-in. He didn’t direct our attention towards details so much as convey the mood and atmosphere of a place most of which most of the country only had a very distorted understanding. DeCarava’s last major New York retrospective was at MoMA in 1996, though presumably his death will provide another opportunity to appreciate the work he created throughout a career that spanned some 70 years.