This week we bring you the work of photographer, Sally Davies.
How did you get started in photography?
My father liked to take photographs. It was one of the only things we ever did together. That and visiting cemeteries, sometimes at the same time. He gave me my first camera when I was a teenager.
Which photographers and other artists work do you admire?
All the usual suspects . . . Arbus, Levitt, Winogrand, but my list of living photographers grows daily . . . Carolyn Newhouse, David Carol, Matt Bialer, Michael Penn, Scott Horn, Jay Fine . . . and just so many more . . . all really engaging, working photographers . . . out there doing it. Turning in really amazing work. It’s the upside to social media . . . meeting so many talented people and getting to see what they are shooting.
Would you share with us an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.
Diane Arbus, “Albino Sword Swallower”
￼If no one saw your work, would you still create it?
That question begs the story of Vivian Maier. Her decision to remain private and have no one see her photographs was an option available before the internet and cell phone cameras.
I have a different life than she had. I live in New York City and support myself with my art. My survival depends on getting the images to the people with whom they resonate.
What draws you to street photography?
I used to be a painter. But every painting was a problem that had to be solved. That is the painter’s job with each new canvas. Studio photography can be similar to creating a painting. They are events. Like the big top. You start it, you do it, then you finish it and move on.
Street Photography is different. Because there is really no start or finish, the burden of resolution is gone, and I am free to engage with the random, no small thing in life. You just wait till it slows down to 5 m.p.h. and jump in.
What challenges do you face as an artist?
The challenge is to be true to myself. To understand what people did before me, but not be derivative. To respectfully tip my hat to the ones I admire and have learned from, but still make sure I am telling my own story.
If you could go out and shoot with another photographer living or passed who would it be?
Dinner and a few tequilas with Eggleston or Arbus would be a good night. Telling each other our stories, that’s the stuff that makes a photo meaningful, the life that the person brought to the shot, their history.
But shooting with another photographer isn’t interesting to me. No matter who they are. The magic for me has always been the isolation of the process. There is a particular zen mindset that you get into when your out in the chaos. The thinking stops for a while. If I wanted to be in a group I would have joined a band years ago and gone that route.
Do you have a favorite book connected with photography?
Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph.
© by Doon Arbus and the estate.
How do you view this time in the history of photography?
Just because there are more photographs being taken, doesn’t mean they are good, or that they will ever see the light of day. That said, you can never judge anything when you’re in the middle of it. Time has to pass, and usually other people write the history.
How do you over come a creative block?
I rarely suffer from a block, but if I do, usually a ride on the 1st Ave Bus up to Harlem gets the cobwebs out. Maybe it’s because I’m from rural Canada, but in the 33 years of living in NYC, there has never been a single day, that I could not find something of value to shoot. It’s pretty wild out there.
What do you hope the viewer takes from your images?
I have no control over what people take from my images. In this day and age, images fly past viewers at a thousand m.p.h. like torrential waves in a tsunami. If the stars align for a split second, and something I photographed catches the attention of someone standing on the river bank, that’s a good day for me.
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
My art is the way I see the world.
Where can we see your work?
My work can be seen online at Sally Davies Photo. You can see Sally Davies work at Museum of the City of New York.
And at the Sally Davies page by clicking her name.
Thank you Sally Davies for sharing your work and your words.
To learn more about Diane Arbus, please visit, Jewish Women’s Archives, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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