Ron Tarver

Black & White Magazine

2004, OCT

Like many artistic breakthroughs, Ron Tarver’s moodily evocative urban and natural landscapes came about as the result of a fortuitous accident. “I printed by accident through the back of the paper, but I liked the look,” says Tarver, who now produces all his scenic work either through diffusion or printing through the back of the paper.

Tarver also uses a unique toning method that, when combined with his printing technique and the use of matte paper, imparts to his images the look and feel of carbon or photogravure prints.
“I wanted a warm tone without using traditional toners that remove the silver,” explains Tarver. “I tried toning with tea and ground walnut shells but eventually ended up using coffee, which produces a warm glow while keeping the blackest black the paper can produce. The use of matte paper helps me achieve an aged look with subdued detail, kind of like a charcoal sketch.”
An accomplished photojournalist with a 20-year career on the staff of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tarver just recently began to focus more on fine art photography and personal documentary projects. “The reason I got into photography was to tell stories,” says Tarver, whose work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Doing fine art photography seriously sprung out of a piece I did for the Inquirer on black cowboys.”
Tarver has been awarded several regional and national grants, including a Pew Fellowship in 2000, and a current NEA grant to produce a series on Deep Deuce, documenting Oklahoma City’s 2nd Street, where Black business and jazz clubs once thrived.
Tarver just recently participated in a traveling survey exhibition featuring Black photographers from the 1800s to the present, organized by the Smithsonian. Tarver will be publishing a book this spring on African-American war veterans, published by HarperCollins.
“Philadelphia has been a tough sell photography-wise,” says Tarver of his efforts to market his work in his hometown. “It’s been a slow educational process. People still won’t buy work because they think there is no good photography here, but there is.”
Tarver is represented by the Sande Webster Gallery, Philadelphia.