The photo above is what sent me swooning and drew me back to the work of David Heath. Just look at the light and shadows, the expressions on the faces! This is story.
Heath is an American photographer, and a self-taught artist. Born in Philadelphia in 1931, he was abandoned by both parents at the age of 4, and grew up in foster homes and an orphanage. Just before he was 16 years old, he happened upon an article in Life magazine that opened his eyes to a truth: photography had the potential to transcend reporting. (It was Ralph Crane's essay, Bad Boy's Story, in the May, 1947 issue that was the light for Heath.)
Heath channeled his tumultuous childhood and feelings of abandonment into a what became a body of work that underscores the stories and experiences of humans. Exquisite black-and-white prints from the 1950s and 1960s defined him as a master of photographic narrative. In 1961, Heath assembled his photographs from the 1950s into a poetic sequence; in 1965 the book was published. Entitled A Dialogue With Solitude, the landmark publication quickly went out of print. Highly sought by collectors meant bad news for me - my copy was $200 (below, on the left). It was reprinted in 2000 by Lumiere Press - and that, too, quickly went out of print. You may still seek and find one but there's more bad news: those are running around $500 (below, on the right). Nonetheless, worth every single cent.
Heath taught at the Dayton Art Institute and Moore College of Art before he moved to Toronto in 1970. There he headed the photography program at Ryerson University for many years. But his home town honored the now-84-year-old artist this last fall and winter with an exhibition of his work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Heath has been producing digital color work since 2001, and published book of that work in 2007 entitled David Heath's Art Show. But it's the work he did in the 1950s and 1960s that call me and speak to my heart.
Black-and-white photography is powerful. It's timeless. And when I stumble upon a photographer who speaks that language with such elegance and eloquence, I am thrilled beyond reason. David Heath. Black and white.