Roy DeCarava/Supreme (1)(1 of 12)
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Roy DeCarava/Supreme

American artist Roy DeCarava was born in Harlem in 1919. DeCarava came to artistic maturity during the post WWII era – during a flourishing of art, music, dance, fashion, theater, literature, scholarship and culture. For over 60 years, DeCarava created tonal, evocative photographs of life in his native city and beyond. "DeCarava's work is itself the best of both worlds,” wrote Roberta Smith, “visually rigorous yet incalculably sensitive to the human predicament and the psychology of everyday life, especially concerning but not limited to African-Americans.”

Before making photographs, DeCarava trained as a painter, printmaker and draftsman – initially using a camera as a reference tool for painting. By the late 1940s, DeCarava was printing striking, shadowy silver gelatin prints that would open up new technical possibilities in contemporary photography. Teju Cole wrote about the unique signature of DeCarava’s work, noting “the chiaroscuro effects came from technical choices: a combination of underexposure, darkroom virtuosity and occasionally printing on soft paper.”

DeCarava’s photographs were first exhibited in New York in 1950. In 1952, he became the first African American photographer to win a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. The Fellowship’s grant enabled DeCarava to embark on a project that would eventually become The Sweet Flypaper of Life, a rich and innovative collaboration with poet Langston Hughes. Hughes chose a selection of DeCarava’s photographs and composed a vivid fictional narrative from the perspective of a Harlem grandmother, Sister Mary Bradley. The Sweet Flypaper of Life remains a luminous work of collaborative storytelling, and is considered a photo-book touchstone. DeCarava followed up with another ground-breaking publication in 1960, the sound i saw, a handmade artist book tracking his engagement of the fiery jazz music scene of New York City.

Throughout his life, DeCarava championed the advancement of fine art photography and supported and inspired generations of photographers. From 1955 to 1957, he established and ran The Photographer’s Gallery, the first gallery in the country to focus exclusively on American fine art photography. In 1975, DeCarava joined the faculty of Hunter College, where he taught both undergraduate and MFA courses for decades. He was named Distinguished Professor of Art in 1988.

Supreme has worked with the DeCarava Archives on a new collection for Spring 2022. The collection features a Hooded Sweatshirt and two T-Shirts.

All profits from the Roy DeCarava collection will benefit the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. For more information, visit:

Available May 19th.

Available in Japan May 21st.