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Thursday, 29 October 2009


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one of my most favorite masters of Photography.. I hope he rests in peace.. his photos are and will be a great lesson and inspiration to many.

Masters of Photography has some of his images:


I'm really saddened to hear about his passing. I often look at the 1981 book of his work by the Friends of Photography. But, not until I saw an exhibition of his work did I get to appreciate the real beauty, subtlety and mysterious nature of his vintage prints.

I wasn't aware Soulville was one of his favorites...one of mine, too. This would be a good night to put on the fabulous sounding Verve LP.

PS On a minor note (speaking of music), and harking back to one of your earlier posts, you didn't use possessive case before the gerund in your last sentence ("my" calling, not "me"). Sorry, can't resist. But, thanks for the excellent article, Mr. Johnston.

I'm pretty sure you mean "saga" rather than "sage" in the first sentence there.

And as to your footnote, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds (that version is Asimov misquoting Emerson, I believe).

I saw the NYT Lens retrospective pop up in my RSS reader and took some time to enjoy it yesterday. Even displayed on black, with the NYT's modifications, I found the images to be quite dark, almost inexplicably so. I faint to imagine what they must look like at the proper luminance, though I imagine properly printed they have more detail than one would imagine.

Thanks for sharing Mike. I find it hard as a johnny-come-lately to photography to get a full measure of some of these past photographers. There is a breadth of work that is almost staggering to encompass without dedicated study.

The intimate nature of Mr. DeCavara's photography is entrancing, and enviable.

"sage"???? perhaps you mean "saga" (in the opening line)

Quick, Mike, second word in this post is a bad typo SAGA, not SAGE

“My days of bitterness are over because I have the sense enough to know that this is not good for me to be bitter,” says DeCarava.

Mastering that one makes the digital mastery of the previous post small potatoes indeed.

I'm not sure if it is heart-felt emotion that is making you write so beautifully Mike but whatever it is, you have done Mr DeCarava proud with your contribution to his epitaph. I hadn't heard of him before now but having read this post I am heading off to find out about him.

It's guys like him that convince you that art photography is even possible -- a thing that I sometimes doubt.

Coltrane on Soprano! (See it at Masters of Photography.) Amazing. Thanks, Mike.

That video in the link is super, and so is his work.

All hail the great Roy DeCarava who could get more image (not to mention soul) out of less exposed silver (in the negative, that is) than any photographer in history.

His book, "The Sound I Saw," which incorporates the photographer's poetry with his poetic photographs of musicians, is one of my all-time favorites.

Some years ago there was a DeCarava retrospective at the Corcoran in Washington, DC: it was breathtaking and made me discover a great photographer that I had never heard of.


You know, a link to an example of his work would really help us understand what you're talking about, when we're not familiar with the man.

Thank you for comments on DeCarava's work. I found it inspirational when I was learning photography decades ago, and still find it a great source. His images endure, as the best photograph always do.

I must look for his work as i'm quite unfamiliar with it and the little i've seen today speaks only of my lack…
Oh and David that is not Emerson i believe it is G. B. Shaw if not then Oscar Wilde but i'm pretty sure Shaw

I am glad to have shared a city with Mr. DeCarava, in some small way.

I've seen his work exhibited, and I keep a copy of _The Sound I Saw_ close to hand. He was a very, very good photographer.

Another giant felled. As mentioned, DeCarava's tonal palette was rich aesthetically and in meaning. And he captured the moment in an original way too, often quiet, sometimes brashly, but always poetically. I hope his work may now garner wider appreciation.

Mike, thanks for bringing Roy DeCarava and his work into our collective photo consciousness. Truly one of the giants.

I once had dreams of taking off around the world with my camera to cover war zones and social injustice and returning triumphantly as a hero. Yet I've lacked the courage to record the ending of my working class neighbourhood which is happening before my eyes. It's an anywhere but home mentality that I'd like to free myself of.

I'm bitter and biased about the slow death of my neighbourhood.It's a story that's worthy of photographers like Roy Decarava, Helen Levitt and Harry Callahan. Photographers that knew that there's no place like home.

Well written Mike..."The Sweet Flypaper of Life" has always meant a lot to me, and his work deserves to be mandatory material to those students who want to learn what a camera can do...

Terry Gross of Fresh Air replayed a great interview with Roy DeCarava today: well worth the listen on npr.org

John Taylor: Well, Asimov definitely attributed his version to Emerson; but perhaps it's a misattribution as well as a misquotation.

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood."

Ralph Waldo Emerson, from the Essays, First Series, "Self Reliance," 1841.


I think that Asimov misquote went something like this "Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself; I am large, I contain multitudes". And I'm pretty sure it was Whitman he was (mis)quoting.

Wow, what a gracious man. I'd seen some of his pictures before but never knew who had photographed them, or even that they were taken by one person. I'm glad to have some context, and will definitely add another book or two to my growing list of TOP recommendations.

Thanks, Mike.

He was a great photograph and a noble person - an interview, where he said "I see photographs all the time" can be seen here:

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