“For me, the process of making pictures is about looking for portals of entry that take me to a parallel universe that’s similar to ours, but somehow better – more vivid, more dramatic, more compelling – where every detail is magnified and every moment feels more significant.”
Palmer Davis (born in New Britain/Connecticut, USA) is a fine art photographer.
He studied photography at “Hampshire College”, “California College of Arts and Crafts”, and later at “The International Center of Photography”.
Palmer Davis makes pictures that explore the mysterious and the magical in the everyday. His photographs evoke a sense of place and a moment in time. They tell stories and reveal metaphors. Whether the setting is natural or man-made, an expansive panorama or an intimate glimpse, it is always a personal interpretation – viewed through a prism of wonder, dream, memory, myth or desire.
Interview with Palmer Davis
Palmer, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
My first photography class in high school opened the door to a new way of seeing, understanding and experiencing the world. It was a transformative experience.
Why did you become a photographer?
So I could make sense of things and find a deeper truth, purpose, gratitude and meaning in life.
What does photography mean to you?
Life begins and ends with stories. Photography enables me to tell mine.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
My first photography teacher, Walter Rabetz, who helped me find my voice and started me on a lifelong path as a visual artist.
Your favorite photography quote?
“No matter what lens you use, no matter what speed the film, no matter how you develop it, no matter how you print it, you cannot say more than you can see.”
“The portrait of a person is one of the most difficult things to do. It means you must almost bring the presence of that person photographed to other people in such a way that they don’t have to know that person personally, but that they are still confronted with a human being that they won’t forget. That’s a portrait.”
How would you describe your photographic style and creative process?
For me, the process of making pictures is about looking for portals of entry that take me to a parallel universe that’s similar to ours, but somehow better – more vivid, more dramatic, more compelling – where every detail is magnified and every moment feels more significant.
What’s important in order to develop your own photographic style and how did you achieve it?
No one else in the history of time has lived my exact life or shares my exact take on life. By remaining true to that inner vision, trusting my instincts and following my passion, I was able to eventually arrive at my own personal style.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
I look for the mystery and magic in the everyday. My pictures are about evoking a sense of place and a moment in time that the viewer is invited to experience.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
Sensitivity. Awareness. Curiosity. Desire. Courage. Patience. Faith. And a child-like sense of wonder.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
My definition of a successful image is one that starts a dialog with the viewer that never ends. To achieve that requires a certain degree of ambiguity, complexity, insight and an element of visual spectacle.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
I draw inspiration from many things: classical and modern paintings, photography books and exhibits, movies, literature, music, culture, travel, dreams, memories, fantasies, the natural world, the manufactured environment, color, light, space, form, beauty in all its guises, the surreal, the sublime and the ordinary, love and grace, connection and solitude, sadness and delight – all the places, people and things I encounter daily. Amazing things are happening all around us all the time when you simply open your eyes, your heart and your mind to them.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
I shoot Portra 400 color film in available light with a medium format Mamiya 7 II camera and a couple of basic lenses. For prints, I make 16 x 20 color C-prints in the color darkroom at “The International Center of Photography”, where I have access as a member of the faculty. For larger sizes, I have digital C-prints made from scanned negatives at Laumont Photographics in NYC.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
Flakphoto. It’s a great resource for photographers to share and discover new work with an influential, global photographic community.
What photography book would you recommend?
There are so many, I have to mention a few:
“Looking at Photographs” by John Szarkowski.
“Starburst. Color photography in America. 1970 – 1980” by Kevin Moore.
“The Photobook: A History, Volumes I and II” by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger
“Photographs Not Taken” by William Steacy.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Photography is a fickle business. It’s not for the faint of heart. Do something practical in addition to photography to supplement your income. Make it a priority to keep making pictures and getting your work out there. The photographer’s life isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. You have to embrace your process, learn to live with uncertainty and never stop believing in yourself.