Renaissance Press Photogravure

From The Archives: Roy DeCarava " Twelve Photogravures"

I have been asked numerous times to include  images and  information about our collaboration with Roy DeCarava, “Twelve Photogravures”. The work with Roy was sparked during a conversation I had with Aaron Siskind.  While Aaron and I were working on the Tar Abstract Portfolio,  Aaron began reflecting on his time in Chicago.  He found a copy of DeCarava’s “Photographs”  and began talking about Roy and the importance of his work as we looked at the book.  I contacted Roy shortly thereafter and met with him at his home in Brooklyn.  My first trip to Roy’s home was my first trip to Brooklyn, one of my first to New York.  It was years before cell phones.  I spent much of the day lost, paid tolls on the same bridge numerous times and arrived at his home on Halsey street at least 4 hours late.  He was sitting on his front steps waiting for me when I arrived.  It was a humurous and spirited introduction.  I left that day with his original negative “Couple Dancing”.  The portfolio took two years to complete.  I made many trips to The DeCarava home to review the work in progress.  A gentleman and gifted teacher Roy introduced me to Paul Robeson, Milt Jackson and many others.  I heard my first full Billie Hiliday LP while Roy talked about his youth and his work as a photographer and teacher.  Roy was among the most difficult of artists to please with a print.  He was not only a photographer but had been a printmaker as well.  The gravure process often surprised him and gave him new ideas as to how the print should look.   I remade many of the plates  numerous times to satisfy qualities that Roy knew were possible through both the platemaking and printing process. The plates were printed by Master Printer Clary Healy with exquisite care.  Subtle shades of cold and warm inks were selectively applied to the plates to increase dimensionality and local contrast.  Variations of ink viscosities were also applied throughout many of the plates to acheive similar results.  

The Portfolio is available for viewing at The Library of Congress 


The Rhode Island School of Design Museum

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