Roy DeCarava 1919-2009


From Roy DeCarava’s book, The Sounds I Saw

It was 50 years ago that I first encountered the photography of Roy DeCarava. Addicted to jazz and hungering for information about my musical heroes, I used to devour the pages on the jazz monthly, Downbeat. DeCarava’s pictures in the pages of that authoritative magazine left an indelible impression at a time when, jazz and photography seemed to be two arts walking in step and doing so hand-in-hand.

It was the era of Bert Stern’s documentary, Jazz on a Summer’s Day (if anything the precursor to practically every music festival documentary that followed). It seemed to me the most natural thing that if you didn’t play an instrument but could use a camera that to attempt to capture the ephemeral music that was jazz on film, was an obligation.

For the life of me, I cannot remember which musician said this of which photographer, but I like to think that it was Dizzy Gillespie of Roy de Carava, who said, “That cat blows a mean camera”. Just as Gillespie’s music will resound for generations of musicians, so Roy DeCarava’s pictures will resound with me for the rest of my life. Roy DeCarava, more tha just a jazz photographer, died on Tuesday last (27th October). That cat really did blow a mean camera…

PS If anyone knows the source of that quote, I’d be delighted to be informed.

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Filed under art, Music, News, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism

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