“My photographic language is fully linguistic. I’m a storyteller. Many of my series are sequenced in order of time, conveying memories in order. I speak to people through imagery.”
Crystal Davis (born in 1983) is a visual storyteller and portrait photographer from the USA currently residing in Fort Worth, Texas. She studied photography at “Academy of Art University”. For Crystal Davis photography means preserving something forever.
“My artwork takes a critical view of personal experience and taboo issues. In my work, I focus on giving the viewer an emotional experience through triggers of memory and relation to my subjects and scenes I create. Each series I create is like a motion picture, coming to life in each frame. I’m here to tell a story and to connect with people. I want to take my negatives and make them positives through the world of art.”
“Artist Profile” – Crystal Davis
Crystal, why did you become a photographer? And what does photography mean to you?
I became a photographer later in life after experiencing many forms of art from painting to graphic design and illustration. I became a photographer professionally after having an interest in it from an early age and because of an early mentor I had while I worked as a graphic designer for a newspaper. He was a photojournalist for the newspaper. One day, there was a terrible car accident involving some teenagers. The teen driving the car was thrown from the car and killed. I heard the accident come over the police scanner and so did his mother. The photographer I mentioned was dispatched to the scene and he captured an image that will forever haunt me to this day.
In the middle of the road, the boy’s body was lying in the middle of the highway covered and his mother was on her knees on the side of the road with the police holding her. Her face was frozen in agony and pain. She heard his plate number over the scanner and rushed to the scene. That image made me want to be a photographer. Strange I know, but in the end, the teen had been texting and driving on his way to school that tragic morning. That image my mentor captured may have changed lives. It definitely changed mine.
“Photography can make people live forever, preserving the youth and preserving important memories.”
Photography to me means preserving something forever. The intent can be so many things, but mine is to change people’s perspectives over things and to make them feel. Photography can make people live forever, preserving the youth and preserving important memories. It changes lives if done correctly. It can touch people and change their perspectives, relate on a deep personal level or make them understand something they may not have before. I believe photography should make you think.
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process? How do you plan and execute a project? Both technically and conceptually?
My photographic language is fully linguistic. I’m a storyteller. Many of my series are sequenced in order of time, conveying memories in order. I speak to people through imagery. My creative process is very much like directing a movie. Each “scene” is thoroughly planned out and scripted. I use actors, mostly my own family, to convey each narrative to the viewer. I usually have a list that I’ve plotted out for each image, complete with lists of variations of how the image can be set up. It takes a few hours to light and fully set up. I shoot mostly in my home so it involves tearing things down and rebuilding rooms to fit each scene. Color and light are always at the top of my list. Lighting is so important in my personal style. I like my images to be well-lit but still dramatic with high contrast.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
“At first glance Gregory Crewdson’s images give you the warm and fuzzy feeling but once you focus and begin to understand the story and concept, it changes.”
Gregory Crewdson is a photographer that deeply inspires my work. His work is what I would describe as beautifully dark. The scenes are dramatic and beautiful but almost always focus on a darker issue. At first glance his images give you the warm and fuzzy feeling but once you focus and begin to understand the story and concept, it changes. He manages to creatively take these dark scenes and project them in a visually pleasing way. I like to think I do the same thing with my own flair. He inspires me mostly with his lighting. He uses many professional sets of lighting styles within one image. In Sunday Roast, the set up was very complicated and he used professionals to assist him. The end result was lighting that created emphasis and pulled the story together. I try to use lighting in a similar fashion so that I can better support my narrative by creating visual hierarchy.
What’s your favorite inspirational quote about photography?
“People say photographs don’t lie, mine do.”
What kind of camera and equipment do you use?
I use a Canon 7D with a variety of lenses and a simple, outdated 430EX speedlight. I also mix it up with studio, tungsten and recently, strobe lighting with gels to help set my color temperatures for the mood. I work a lot with unconventional type lighting mixed with professional. I love the results and finding new ways to light my images. I almost never use natural light and when I do only as a fill or backlight.
My favorite lens is my 50mm, 1.2 but I also use an 18-55mm and a 28-135mm.
What are the best online photography magazines in your opinion?
ClampArt.com is always intriguing to me. Many of my favorite photographers exhibit there and I love seeing newcomer’s work, which is an often time seen there as well. Jill Greenberg while controversial, I appreciate seeing her work there. She has so much courage to touch upon the issues she does in the ways she does.
What book about photography would you recommend?
There are so many photography books on my shelf right now and I love them all. The one I pull out the most is my Photobox book because it is packed full of inspiration. Sometimes when I get stuck figuring out how I want the lighting to look for a certain mood, I pull that book out and it sparks me every time.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to get started with photography?
“Everything I cover is something I am emotional invested in.”
I recommend working on and understanding your mental model before you get to certain on a specific area in photography. You really need to shoot what you love and what you understand. Everything I cover is something I am emotional invested in. I’ve experienced or have been related to every image I’ve ever created. The more you invest in your work, the deeper it becomes and the more impact it will have on your audience.