Roy Decarava: Light Break | David Zwirner
A photo by Roy DeCarava, titled Woman standing, tree, dated 1987.

Roy DeCarava: Light Break

Zoé Whitley introduces a catalogue of photographs by the artist

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Light Break is a catalogue of photographs by Roy DeCarava, who famously said of his work: “My pictures are immediate and yet at the same time, they’re forever. They present a moment so profoundly that it becomes an eternity.”


Image: Roy DeCarava, Woman standing, tree, 1987 (detail)

The cover of the book, DeCarava Light Break, published 2019.

“Too often the true measure of artists’ greatness is recognized not in their lifetimes but becomes manifest through their aesthetic afterlives, in the work of subsequent generations. While this is true of the late photographer Roy DeCarava (1919–2009), relative anonymity came also with that rare gift, the respect of one’s peers. Fellow photographer Edward Steichen included DeCarava’s work in a seminal MoMA exhibition as early as 1955. Beloved and brilliant poet Langston Hughes provided the text for DeCarava’s classic volume, The Sweet Flypaper of Life, first published that same year. Among extensive professional accolades, he received a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship in 1952—the first awarded to an African-American artist for photography—and in 2006 the National Medal of Arts, the United States’ highest honor granted to artists.’’

Read the full Preface by Zoé Whitley

Watch the following video for an introduction to the work and life of Roy DeCarava, narrated by the art historian Sherry Turner DeCarava.

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