Roy DeCarava, A’40,

DeCarava-Roy-1Roy Rudolph DeCarava, Art 1940, was born Dec. 9, 1919, in Harlem, NY.  Roy DeCarava began his art career as a sign painter for the Depression-era Works Progress Administration.  He was an Army draftsman during World War II and was hospitalized following racial taunts at a military posts in the South (Washington Post. 10/30/2009).

He collaborated with  Langston Hughes on a highly praised book, “Sweet Flypaper of Life,” in 1955.

Roy DeCarava was a distinguished professor of art at Hunter College (1975-2006), where he established photography as a graduate degree program. In 1952 he became the first African-American photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship. While continuing his artistic work, he began a career in freelance editorial photography during the 1960s, producing work for a diverse set of corporate clients. By the 1990s his own work had been included in the renowned “Family of Man” exhibit and became the subject of 15 solo exhibitions and several major museum publications. During his career of almost 60 years, Mr. DeCarava the founder of a school of African-American photography that broke with the social documentary traditions.

Roy DeCarava freelanced for Fortune, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Look and other magazines. He led a protest against Life magazine in the 1960s, saying it discriminated against black photographers.

The Museum of Modern Art presented a retrospective of DeCarava’s work, which traveled from 1996 to 1999 to museums throughout the United States. Roy DeCarava was a recipient of the 2006 National Medal of Art from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Roy DeCarava received the 1996 Cooper Union President’s Citation and the 2007 CUAA Augustus Saint Gaudens Award. He was inducted into the Cooper Union Hall of Fame in 2009.

Roy DeCarava passed away in October of 2009. He was 89.


Roy DeCarava, 89; Celebrated N.Y. photographer, 10/30/2009.  Washington Post

Roy DeCarava, Harlem Insider Who Photographed Ordinary Life, Dies at 89, 10/28/2009.   New York Times