Billie Holiday

Roy DeCarava American

Not on view

With The Sweet Flypaper of Life, his groundbreaking book written with the poet Langston Hughes, Roy DeCarava emerged in 1955 as one of the most important visual artists in the African-American community. A study of street life in Harlem, Flypaper is among the landmark collaborations between a writer and a photographer. This intimate yet informal portrait of Billie Holiday, made during the years DeCarava was working in Harlem on Flypaper, shows the jazz singer and songwriter near the height of her popularity and at her most generous, welcoming, and relaxed. Perhaps made after a performance at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, the portrait ignores the effects of Holiday’s well-documented and lifelong addiction to narcotics and alcohol and instead focuses on her soulful exuberance and natural beauty.

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