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Boy with bowed head
1961 (taken) 1970s (early, print)
Gelatin silver print
13 x 10 ins (33 x 25.4 cm) (image)
Swann Galleries - New York
17 October 2019, Classic & Contemporary Photographs, Sale: 2520, Lot: 258
Roy DeCarava first used his 35mm camera as a tool for printmaking and painting, but soon turned to the medium of photography as his primary outlet for artistic expression. His sensitive and richly rendered photographs of his community in Harlem convey a timeless sense of emotional intimacy and seductive reflection. Though at first glance DeCarava's photographs appear to be largely documentarian, his work in fact centers around a refined aesthetic impulse to create a visual record of a feeling, and a means of metaphorical creative expression.
DeCarava printed his own work (he understood the darkroom process to be an integral component of the creation of an image), and his prints are defined less by the strict black-and-white tonalities commonly associated with silver prints and more by a range of shadow tones, evocative in their subtle gradation and suggestive of a lyrical meditation on form, texture, and the senses.
This figure's bent head renders the image nearly abstract, and his folded arms suggestive of the solitary interior life of an unknowable stranger. The early 1960s was a transitional time for the artist, indicative of the social realities of the period, and the image seems to convey both a sense of loneliness and isolation. And yet DeCarava always insisted that his work remained about light, not darkness, even as the tones of his work employed a specialized palette dark grays and deep blacks.
Galassi, Roy DeCarava, A Retrospective (The Museum of Modern Art, New York), p. 177.