Roy DeCarava: Light Break



ISBN: 9781644230251 Category:

Roy DeCarava, Sherry Turner DeCarava


Light Break presents the first survey since 1996 of photographer Roy DeCarava, an essential figure of American art and culture, whose “poetry of vision” re-forms urban life, labor, love, and jazz into the discovery of “an intimate, emotional arc of transformation.”

Though DeCarava often refrained from public discussion of his work, this catalogue provides important background into determining factors of his aesthetic sensibility-his traditional training in painting and printmaking as well as his philosophical undertakings. It brings the viewer to a consideration of contradictory precepts in DeCarava’s work that seeks resolution through tonal and structural elements within the image.

Light Break presents a wide-ranging selection of DeCarava’s photographs accompanied by a preface by Zoé Whitley, an American curator based in London, and features an introduction and essay by curator and art historian Sherry Turner DeCarava. Titled “Celebration,” Turner DeCarava’s essay considers the artist’s singular poetic vision, his timeless portrayals of individuals and places, and his mastery of composition and photographic printmaking.

As Whitley writes, “In making photographs, as in life, DeCarava was patient. Possessing both a peerless self-awareness and acute observational skills, he knew intuitively when to wait and when to open the camera’s shutter. In the dark room, he availed himself of these same attributes, moving with steady assurance to develop his prints so as to allow the full range of what he called his ‘infinite scale of grey tones’-often realized at the deepest end of the spectrum-to emerge slowly and fully.”

Published on the occasion of two concurrent exhibitions of DeCarava’s work at David Zwirner New York in 2019, this exquisite volume showcases a dynamic range of images that underscore DeCarava’s subtle mastery of tonal and spatial elements across a wide, fascinating array of subject.

Additional information

Weight 1656 g
Dimensions 25.4 x 29.9 cm
Publisher name David Zwirner Books
Publication date 29 November 2019
Number of pages 228
Format Hardback
Dimensions 25.4 x 29.9 cm
Weight 1656 g

Over the course of six decades, American artist Roy DeCarava (1919-2009) produced a singular collection of black-and-white photographs of modern life that combine formal acuity with a deeply human treatment of his subject matter. Grounded by a unified theory of the visual plane, his work displays a subtle mastery of tonal and spatial elements and devotion to photography as a means of artistic expression. DeCarava contemplated the relationship of his images to the viewer, while also taking on the challenge of revealing less-than-visible terrains. His pioneering work privileged the aesthetic qualities of the medium as a counterpoint to seeing photography as mere chronicle or document and helped silver gelatin photography to gain acceptance as an art form in its own right.

Sherry Turner DeCarava is an art historian, curator, and independent scholar in the fields of traditional arts and contemporary American photography. Serving as the executive director, the principal focus of her professional career has been the development of The DeCarava Archives, which supports exhibition and scholarly research projects related to the work of her late husband Roy DeCarava. She is the author of two definitive texts on his photography, published in Roy DeCarava: Photographs (1981) and Roy DeCarava: A Retrospective (1996). In 2014, she initiated First Print Press, beginning a process to republish classic Roy DeCarava books, while bringing new photographic projects into print.

Zoé Whitley is senior curator at the Hayward Gallery in London, prior to which she was curator, International Art, at Tate Modern. In 2019, she curated the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and co-curated the acclaimed exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power. Author of The Graphic World of Paul Peter Piech (2014) and children's book Meet the Artist: Frank Bowling (2019), she has also authored exhibition catalogues, essays, and interviews on Grace Wales-Bonner, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Lubaina Himid, Alexander McQueen, and Jack Whitten, among others. Zoé was named one of Apollo Magazine's 40 Under 40 Thinkers in Europe, and one of ArtLyst's 2017 100 Alternative Powerhouses in the not-for-profit contemporary art world.