In this essay, Mark Durden reflects upon a selection of images of Roy DeCarava presented at an exhibition at David Zwirner gallery in London 13 years after his death. What is remarkable about DeCarava’s work is its multivalency, subtle and nuanced in response to the world around him, avoiding polemical or didactic stances. Aware of the documentary’s association with photographers who would picture Harlem from the outside, DeCarava declared: “I'm not a documentarian, I never have been. I think of myself as poetic, a maker of visions, dreams, and a few nightmares.” In its poetic register, DeCarava’s images possess a symbolic resonance, with implications of segregation and separation, as playing a part in the metaphorical representation of the people captured on his images.
- Historical images