Photographer Dave Heath began his life more than 80 years ago right here in Philadelphia, and now has come full circle with an in-depth exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Multitude, Solitude: The Photographs of Dave Heath.
The exhibit, which runs through February 21, 2016, marks the very first time all of the images from Heath’s lauded book A Dialogue with Solitude are displayed together in a museum within the United States.
As a child in the city, Life magazine’s Bad Boy’s Story —- a photo essay by Ralph Crane about foster care, an all too familiar system for Heath -— piqued Heath’s interest in producing images. As a self-taught photographer, he began using the camera’s lens to search for images that captured feelings within himself.
His early years focused on the isolation and loneliness of an individual, and later in his life, the significance of a mass of individuals that comprise a crowd.
The complete set of photographs that make up A Dialogue with Solitude becomes the centerpiece of the exhibition. Broken down into 10 sections, each has accompanying text of Heath’s readings in aesthetics, art, poetry and philosophy.
The exhibition covers Heath’s work from the 1940s through the 1960s, and follows his whereabouts — beginning in Philadelphia, traversing the country and serving in Korea as a part of the U.S. Army, and later moving to New York City before settling in Toronto.
With a traveler’s wanderlust and a photographer’s eye, Heath produced a series of photographic books throughout his life. No Dancing in the Streets, In Search of Self: A Portfolio and Chicago, as well as his first book project 3, are included in the museum’s exhibition.
Also on display, two contact sheets of rolls of film from Heath’s travels and 160 paired images on a dual-screen slide projection with a musical accompaniment.
Fittingly, a native son and one of America’s great street photographers returns to his place of birth to show in one of the country’s greatest repository of arts.