weep not for the future: the photographs of Sam Davis
Artist Statement and Bio
I have a memory that is not my own. Somewhere around nostalgia and wishing there are the things I am most interested in -collected stories of amazing things that happened before my time. I am obsessed with that which I did not see, what I cannot see; an atomic test, an Apollo rocket taking off, giant airships. Perhaps others find these things in their dreams but sadly, I rarely remember my dreams. I relieve my anxiety of not remembering by seeing these things in the light of day. It is the inexplicable thing that is somehow comforting, the strange out of place object and the story not believable. My photography has been driven by the desire to make images that represent that feeling of comfort through confusion. My images allow me to put myself into a place I have come upon that drew me to it-to then take that image and put the viewer there as well. This act of viewing makes all of us part of this place that we are drawn to for reasons we are not quite sure of.
These images represent the collimation of vast and disparate sources of inspiration. From the internet, the Weekly World News, family stories, and low budget movies of the 1950’s and 1960’s and most importantly-factual history. Central to the motive, however, is the struggle and adventure of being an artist. As artists we see the world in a different way and perhaps even see a different world altogether. Our desire to set out and make a career as an artist is no more far fetched than the desire of a child who longs to be an astronaut. The results of both endeavors is equally profound-to inspire and give both hope and wonder to those who encounter us-and to explore places and ideas that other dare not to.
The images you see before you span the past few years, in a body of work that is nearing close to ten years in length. The models are not models at all, but fellow artists, and most-friends. Brave enough to take these roles in desolate places and in harsh conditions. These images serve not only as staged photographs but also as documents of an event that actually happened. The chance observer on nearby roads hopefully recounting the day when he saw an astronaut in the desert or a pretty girl being chased by UFO’s. I hope that you take a moment to let these images into your head, to dream a little-to remember what it is like to dream without limits.
Photographer Sam Davis hails from Pensacola, Florida, where he grew up accustomed to the sounds of low-flying fighter jets and transport planes coming and going from the Naval Air Station there. Yet these frequent passers-by did not, as far as he knows, enter his dreams, which Davis does not usually remember. This loss of access to an unconscious world drives, in part, his art: he creates substitute images for the nocturnal visions beyond his access. Davis is too young to remember the classic era of space exploration first hand, another loss which he investigates in his work. The ambiguity of his images, their mysterious locales and questionable facticity, he finds, provide a kind of comfort and relief from the anxiety of mourning what he feels is lost. Himself an explorer into the worlds of nostalgia and imperfect memory, Davis creates troubled heroes who are hopeful seekers. He uncannily conjures up a sense of recognition that never veers into mere duplication or kitsch. At times hallucinatory, his images invite the viewer into a familiar yet imaginary world. Davis’s preferred medium of film rather than digital photography already situates him in the realm of the past, which he emphasizes by experimenting with earlier photographic technologies such as daguerrotype, wet collodion, and tintype processes.
Davis’s trajectory took him from Pensacola to Gainesville, where he received a BFA in Creative Photography from the University of Florida. He received his MFA from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, where he was inspired by both the desert and the spectacle of Las Vegas. Ultimately he landed all the way on the opposite coast, where he teaches at The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and lives in Los Angeles.