Sarah Cowan

Harlem Dwelling: Roy DeCarava's Fine Art Photographs, New York City, 1948-1996

The African American photographer Roy DeCarava captured his native Harlem in black and white photographic prints for nearly five decades beginning in the late 1940s. Though widely accepted as an important contribution to modern fine art photography, DeCarava’s work has been the subject of relatively little scholarly analysis. This gap in scholarship results in part from the interpretive challenge to art historians presented by his photographs. This disciplinary challenge arises from the intersection of: DeCarava’s race and its bearing on his relationship to the place and people he photographed; DeCarava’s unprecedented artistic choices in photographing Harlem’s residents; and the status of the medium of photography in the visual culture of the United States at mid century. My prospectus research asks how DeCarava’s implicitly political photographs, situated idiosyncratically in the art worlds of New York at mid century, offer a lens onto the broader cultural and economic climate of the United States.