Alongside a lifetime of mentoring younger photographers, David Alan Harvey has spent his career combining his documentary work with his own personal vision.
Born in San Francisco and raised in Virginia, Harvey started taking photographs at the age of 11. His first photo essay, Tell It Like It Is, self-published in 1967, chronicled the lives of a black family living in Norfolk, Virginia while the state’s schools were undergoing the process of desegregation. The staple-bound book was sold for $2 apiece, aimed at raising money for the family.
In 1969, while working for Kansas’ Topeka Capital-Journal, he was encouraged to start shooting in color. Not long after, a grant from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts allowed him to photograph a number of personal stories, notably a year-long series about Virginia Beach.
In November of 1973 Harvey shot the first of over 40 stories for National Geographic, a series on Tangier Island, Virginia – a remote fishing community on a small sandbar between Virginia and Delaware. His relationship with the magazine has seen him shoot stories on subjects as varied as stock car racing, hip-hop music and the Maya people of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Harvey became a full member of Magnum Photos in 1997, and in 2008 started the award-winning Burn magazine, a journal aimed at showcasing the work of emerging photographers. The magazine is just one way Harvey has helped young photographers develop their work: throughout his career he has conducted numerous workshops, as well as lecturing and leading seminars at universities throughout America.
This photograph was taken in Chile in 1987, just after Harvey had left a staff job at National Geographic. He was experiencing a renewed sense of freedom at the time, and has said of this image: “On my right wrist is a small tattoo: a red balloon. Why? It’s in honour of the 50s French classic short film The Red Balloon. Saw it when I was a kid […] When I saw this boy in Santiago, Chile, that ultimate image of freedom popped into my head. There are all kinds of freedom. Creative freedom being one of the most rewarding.”