Roy DeCarava Quotes from 1996 Charlie Rose Interview

Charlie Rose interviews Photographer Roy DeCarava, 1996 

[Editor’s Update Feb 2, 2010: Famed photo critic A.D. Coleman attended the January 28, 2010 memorial service and private funeral held for DeCarava where he was invited to speak about the late photographer – here’s what he had to say.]

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you already know I love doing photographer interviews. When I interview a photographer, I’m not just interested in their technique and equipment. I’m more interested in their artistic tendencies – the questions, theories and truths that drive them to make pictures as a means of expression.

An interview with photographer Roy DeCarava would’ve been a dream! Luckily Charlie Rose thought of the idea first. Towards the middle of his interview, Charlie Rose asks, “What haven’t you been able to photograph that you’ve very much wanted to?”

Just when you think DeCarava’s going to name some great historical figure, Roy smiles innocently, almost as if embarrassed by his answer, “The wind.”

Here are some my favorite quotes from Charlie Rose’s 1996 interview with DeCarava, the same year of his Museum of Modern Art retrospective.

“It’s the not the subject that interests me as much as my perception of the subject.”

“I don’t really think that the technique really determines the veracity of the image. It’s what the image does to the viewer that determines whether it’s right or wrong.”

“My life has been pretty rainbow-colored in the sense that I lived in many areas of the city that weren’t completely black… So I wound up photographing a lot of different people.”

“Seeing your work on the wall is like the ultimate thing that can happen.”

“Artists are a very important part of our society because they make a great contribution to our values. The artist creates a value system that we all grow up on, whether we know it or not.”

“The artist creates the material that we look back upon as part of history.”

“The artist is a kind of a seer and by nature he is optimistic because he believes in the future.”

DeCarava also talks about how he came to collaborate with author Langston Hughes on the book that chronicled Harlem’s noble side, The Sweet Flypaper of Life. Watch the 14 minute interview below.

R.I.P. Roy DeCarava, we’ll miss your eye on life.


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