Born in San Francisco, David Alan Harvey was raised in Virginia. He discovered photography in 1956 at the age of 11 when he purchased a used Leica with savings from his newspaper route and began photographing his family and neighborhood.
When he was 20 he lived with and documented the lives of an African American family living in Norfolk, Virginia, and the resulting book, Tell It Like It Is, was published in 1966. He was named Magazine Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association in 1978.
Harvey went on to shoot over forty essays for National Geographic magazine. He has covered stories around the world, including projects on French teenagers, the Berlin Wall, Mayan culture, Vietnam, Native Americans, Mexico, Naples, and Nairobi.
He has published two major books, Cuba and Divided Soul, based on his extensive work on Spanish cultural migration to the Americas, and his book Living Proof (2007) deals with hip-hop culture. His work has been exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Nikon Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Workshops and seminars are an important part of his life.
Harvey is founder and editor of the award-winning Burn Magazine, featuring iconic and emerging photographers in print and online.
His latest book (based on a true story) was published by Burn in 2012.
Harvey joined Magnum as a nominee in 1993 and became a full member in 1997. He lives in New York City.