Dave Heath (American, 1931–2016) used photography to convey the loneliness and beauty of those around him. Abandoned by his parents at age four, Heath grew up in foster homes and an orphanage. He was fascinated as a child by magazine photographs; a 1947 photo essay by Ralph Crane in Life, “Bad Boy’s Story: An Unhappy Child Learns to Live at Peace with the World,” showed him a way to make photography a mode of self-expression.
Inspired by the humanistic photography of Harry Callahan and W. Eugene Smith (who later taught a print workshop attended by Heath), and interested in the relationship between words and pictures, Heath produced several handmade books, including 3 (1953), In Search of Self: A Portfolio (1956), and Chicago (1956). After serving in the Korean War, he attended the Philadelphia Museum School of Art from 1954 to 1956 then came to Chicago and took night classes with Richard Nickel at the Institute of Design. In 1957–64 he lived in New York, where he worked for commercial photographers and befriended photographers Roy DeCarava, Garry Winogrand, Smith, and Robert Frank, among others. Reaching a pivotal moment in his career, Heath won successive Guggenheim Fellowships in 1963 and 1964. With this assistance he completed A Dialogue with Solitude (1965) his most celebrated publication: eighty-two sympathetic photographs of a range of human moments taken between 1952 and 1963.
“DAVE HEATH | In Concert For The Silent Witness” provides selected works from the previous exhibition in 2013 at the Ottawa Art Gallery, "Dave Heath A Heritage of Meaning". It describes the broader perspective Heath is engaged with, that in his own words declares “…it is first an encounter with people and events, a world of time and place and colour:” an encounter focused both on the privileged, the social and the introspective. Heath embraces the outsider’s reveries, giving value to that of the quotidian with both subtlety and grace, finally reverberating in a spirit of commonality. The range of work, whether from within the privacy of a gifted friendship or through the tragedy of the public circus acknowledges the frailty yet conviction for continuity and a critical sense of place.