September 12, 2006

Sweet Flypaper of Life

I found a copy of Sweet Flypaper of Life by photographed by Roy DeCarava and written by Langston Hughes in a used bookstore yesterday for $3. I've always wanted a copy, but have never found one in good shape at a decent price. It's a picture book marrying an imagined story by a woman in Harlem to images...poetic fiction. I couldn't think of many other examples of this kind of collaboration, (Photobook text even when it is written by poets and famous authors is usually simple description, and when photographers do create imagined narratives they usually write the text themselves). Anyway, beautiful and fascinating book. My guess is in this case the words came first and they were illustrated by DeCarava but somehow it would please me more if it were the other way around.

posted at 09:24 AM by raul

Filed under: photography


09/12/06 09:05 PM

What a find!

01/31/07 09:24 AM

indeed, what i find. about 30 some years ago in a drunken stupor i gave my first edition away. who knows who i gave it to. hoping one day to get it back the way you got yours. good for you, my friend.

07/26/07 01:01 AM

Just found your blog. Good stuff.

I have my own cheap Sweetflypaper story. About 10 years back I was in a thrift store on 9th avenue in the 50's here in NYC and I found a copy of the paper 1st edition of this book. It was marked 50 cents. When I brought it to the counter to pay, the person behind the counter pointed to a sign that indicated that all books were half price.

As I was hyperventillating outside the store after parting the 25 cents, I opened the book and it was signed by Decarava. It only could have been better if it was signed by Hughes as well.

12/15/07 02:12 PM

What a great find. I am taking his photography class and he is a great teacher and influence. I am grateful that he is still teaching.

I bought a hard cover copy on line and paid 108 dollars..
After reading your blog, I want to search all the thrift stores in New York!

01/10/08 07:02 PM

According to the narrative text in the book "Roy De Carava: A Retrospective, the photographs were made first and Hughes added the words later. Great find!

08/02/08 10:15 AM

I have this same paperback book- bought it for 25 cents at a goodwill outlet where you can buy items by the pound! Now I am listing it on eBay, if anyone is interested... my seller name is stonecruz....feel free to contact me, I am sure the bidding is going high!

12/04/08 10:23 PM

I love this book, the narrative, and the photographs. I have not been so lucky to find a copy. I checked out a copy at the library and was able to enjoy it. Langston Hughes is a great influence and this book/collaboration inspired me to write a poetic narrative "Grandma's Hands."

I'm glad I found your post.

08/19/10 12:26 AM

Yes, the pictures were done first and Langston creatively added the story to the pictures...hopefully I can find a copy like you did Raul.

05/10/11 05:30 AM

Lucky find!
Yeah, it's a sweet and beautiful little book. I'm writing my thesis about a couple of pubblications of a couple of photograpers...and one of them is DeCarava with his The sweet Flypaper of Life. :)
I found the same edition, at a (little) bit higher price, but still a good one!
anyway, yes, as someone told you, the writings came after the pictures,
BUT Hughes didn't follow them to write his text. And it was Hughes who put in sequence the images, according to his text.
He affirmed that he already knew people of Harlem, and the stories about them, so he didn't need to see any picture.
Simon & Schuster (publishing house) agreed to publish it in 1955 saying to Langston that he had to write the text.
:) its a pretty book, full of meanings, even if DeCarava's pictures are fuller of them than they are in this pubblication.. arent them? :)
bye to everyone!!

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