Roy DeCarava, Artistic Chronicler of Harlem Life

Courtesy of Sherry Turner Decarava
Roy DeCarava was an internationally renowned photographer best known for his black-and-white images of daily life in Harlem and candid shots of jazz giants. His work is in the collections of many of the country's major art institutions, including the National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2006, he received the National Medal of Arts, the highest award the U.S. government gives to an artist.

For 34 years, DeCarava was a professor at Hunter College and taught until his death in October at 89.

"Roy DeCarava was devoted to a traditional form of photography - the silver print," says Sanford Wurmfeld, retired chair of the Department of Art at Hunter who still teaches at the college. "Within the limitations which this medium offered, he was able to create a whole world in his work - as he was justly famous for finding incredible subtleties in the dark areas of his prints."

DeCarava studied painting and architecture at the Cooper Union School of Art and the George Washington Carver Art School before turning to photography in the 1940s. In 1952, he became the first black photographer to win a Guggenheim Fellowship.

According to colleagues, DeCarava was kind and sensitive to his students, gently questioning them to "urge them on to self-discovery," says Wurmfeld. "He well understood that posing the right questions could open up worlds of opportunities for his students."