Friday Inspiration – Roy DeCarava

Roy DeCarava was born in December 1919 in the Harlem section of New York City, where he was raised by his single mother. He began working at an early age to earn money, and continued to hold odd jobs throughout most of his career as a photographer. He eventually secured admission to The Cooper Union, but left after two years to attend classes at the Harlem Art Center.

In 1955, DeCarava and his wife opened a gallery in the front part of their brownstone apartment on 85th Street called, A Photographer’s Gallery. Although the gallery was only open for two years, it helped pioneer an effort to win recognition for photography as a fine art. Because he felt very strongly about maintaining the artistic integrity of his images, he eventually gave up magazine and freelance work in order to take on a job teaching at Hunter College, where he’s been for over thirty years.

DeCarava was the first African American photographer to win a Guggenheim Fellowship. His work has been the subject of 15 solo exhibitions, including the Museum of Modern Art in 1996. And in 2006 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Roy DeCarava portrait by Kurt Fishback

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