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.
“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.”
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 matter: from the figural implications of smoke and debris to the “shimmering mirror beneath a mother as she walks with her children in the morning light.” These photographs express a strength of imagery—an intent to synchronize and honor the pulse of art as an emergent signal for creative and revelatory freedom.