Philadelphia [Young girl hanging on a rail] by Dave Heath
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Gelatin silver print
Signed, titled, and dated, in pencil, artist stamp, in ink, au verso
Provenance: Exhibited in Dialogues with Solitude at Le Bal, Paris, 2018 and The Photographers' Gallery, London, 2019
Printed circa 1955
By the age of four, Dave Heath (1931-2016) had been abandoned by both of his parents. By the age of fifteen he had lived in a series of foster homes and, finally, in an orphanage. Given that only his mother was of the Jewish tradition (yet this is how he was being raised) as well as the lack of any family support, he did not feel that he belonged anywhere.
However, through the study of Jewish history he gained an understanding of a human community and our individual commitments to survival. Coupling this with American history Heath began to lay the groundwork for his belief in a purposeful life. At this early age, Heath knew that he wanted to be an artist; seeing this as the best way to experience the world and come to define himself within it. His commitment to mastering every facet of the medium of photography has earned the respect of connoisseurs for many years.
Dave Heath was a master black & white printer. He essentially stopped printing in the late 1960s when he devoted himself to making slide presentations and, later, Polaroid photographs. Most of Heath’s images exist in 1-2 prints made close to the time of the negative, with the notable exception of images in his sequence A Dialogue With Solitude. Before he was able to secure a publisher for this seminal book he endeavoured to make ten examples of each of the 80 photographs to be released as ‘Master Sets’. He seemed to have completed printing about three-quarters of the total by the time a publisher was secured, which brought an end to the production of the ‘Master Sets’. Projects following ADWS were printed similarly, 1-2 first prints, but those making the final edit for a sequence would be printed in editions of 1/5 or 1/10; typically dry-mounted to board. His late 1960s ‘Proof Prints’ are mostly unique prints because his eventual solution for presenting the work from that period was a slideshow, hence no ‘Master Sets’ were required. Since the late 1960s, until his death in 2016, Heath did not make newer prints from his black & white negatives.
Beautiful photos of sadness and longing - BBC, May 2019
Multitude, Solitude: The Photographs of Dave Heath - News wire, March 2019
Dave Heath: an eye for the mournful moment - Financial Times, February 2019
Dave Heath - The Guardian, January 2019
Best of 2018: Paper Journal - British Journal of Photography, December 2018
American Solitude - Aperture, December 2018
The big picture: a street corner in civil rights-era Chicago - The Guardian, September 2018
Dave Heath - Dialogues with Solitudes - The Eye Of Photography, September 2018