Name: Jack Davison
Hometown: Helions Bumpstead, tiniest little rural outpost in Essex, UK.
Current town: Leamington Spa, peculiar town in Coventry.
Film and/or digital: Digital digital digital. I don’t have the patience for analogue techniques; I love the instant nature of digital and how it is far more accessible as a medium. Some see the fact that anyone can take a reasonably good photo on a digital camera as reductive to the format, but it is what makes it brilliant, the fact that a fourteen-year-old can kick my arse with a simple press of a button. And I pray that it is that simple, because I can admit to knowing very little about how my camera works.
First camera: The family Canon Ixus and then dodgy Nikon D50 off ebay.
Current camera: I switch between a rusty Nikon D100 and a Panasonic Lumix LX3.
Thoughts about first images ever taken, describe them?
Shit. Clichéd. Over photoshopped. I didn’t put much thought into them, they were just me messing around with my dad’s camera. For some reason, I started putting them up on Flickr, and slowly but surely, I started to copy techniques and stumble my way through photoshop. I can’t deny how key Flickr was to me getting anywhere with my photography.
What do you see when you look at your work now?
I hate describing my photos or even talking about them. In reality, I am just a berk with a camera. A camera which I don’t really understand, but I get pretty pictures from by pressing the odd botton or two. I am a bit of a perfectionist, though.
What do you hope others will see, if anything? Their experience?
I don’t want people to look at me for the meaning or for me to force a particular way of viewing upon a person. People should invest whatever meaning they wish into it. I rarely set out to make a photo mean something, in that thinking process it becomes a contrived meaning. Obviously every photo is personal to me in some way, but it is the need to try and grab a single moment or feeling which is far more exciting. If a photo turns out a certain way, it is usually totally by accident.
What’s your reaction to the way others describe your photography?
Someone once described my work as ‘dark,’ which I found quite peculiar. I wish I could claim to have some desperately murky past to make me seem far more interesting, but, yeah, it was pretty normal. I wouldn’t say I set out to be dark, but maybe it is an aesthetic. The best time to photograph someone is when they have had barely any sleep and look rough as hell, because at least then you are getting them, not something that is planned. It is the spontaneity which is the most important, the unplanned which always work best. I definitely am not a ‘dark’ person, I am stupidly optimistic about most things.
What do you look for in an image? What makes a great photograph for you?
I am a sucker for peculiar faces and beautiful women.
But to expand on that, I look for interesting faces, not necessarily the girl everyone thinks is ‘fit’ (she will often be dull as hell to portrait). It is about finding the most unique and peculiar faces. It is awful that I can’t help but meet a person and instantly work out how I would portrait them, but I do it without thinking. Most of my models are friends or friends of friends, and the thing I enjoy most is meeting that person and trying to work them out in the process of taking their portrait. Facebook is the greatest tool for photographers, because people never saw the need for photographs of themselves, and ever since Facebook arrived, suddenly everyone wants to have the best profile picture. Which is brilliant for photographers. It is also great for stalking.
It is a look in the eyes I suppose which I go for most, not just that, but all the intricacies of the face. And the way in which the person reacts in front of the lens. Portraiting people is by far the most rewarding aspect of photography, the initial excitement at finding a new face and the rush to shoot it right, cannot be beaten.
In others work, it is the images that make me want to get up and take a photo that are the ones that are truly brilliant.
“Hari,” filmed by Brett Walker, edited by Jack Davison
Dali, Jenny Saville, Egon Sciele, Gustav Klimt, Lucian Freud.
T.S. Eliot, Kazuo Ishiguro, Oscar Wilde, Salman Rushdie, Emile Zola, Kosztolanyi, Chuck Palahniuk, Erich Maria, Kafka, Garth Nix.
New photographers who most inspire you?
Lydia Roberts. She is only sixteen and the most explosive talent I have had the pleasure to meet and work with. She constantly beats me into submission with her images and always gets the shot that I miss. She’ll hate me for this, but I did a video of her which I am quite proud of.
Conor Williams, too, is a genius, but a lazy bastard and he needs to take more photos.
“Lydia Roberts,” by Jack Davison
Who or what has most influenced your work and how?
All sorts of things inspire me, I keep a folder of 3000 images on my computer, of old photos, mug shots, magazine cuttings, pretty much anything that I can get my hands on. It is the photography leaves me still, that keeps me alive. And raging raging raging to go out and shoot. I have a massive soft spot for classical imagery, three greats who constantly inspire me, are Don McCullin, Richard Avendon and Irving Penn. Current infatuations: Jacob Aue Sobol, James Nactwey and Pieter Hugo.
Brett Walker, my mentor, has had the greatest influence upon my work and is the most important person I have met. I can’t thank him enough for being the best teacher and friend. I would still be stuck fucking around on photoshop with freckles and shiny eyes if he hadn’t kicked me in the right direction. I needed that moment for him to kick the shit out of my work, (pride bruising as it was) to actually know where to go next.
Brett Walker, photographed by Jack Davison
Was there ever an “A-ha!” moment, when you realized you wanted to be a photographer? Or a picture that really set you on your way?
It was the moment I realised I could never paint realistically enough and that the camera would always win. Photography makes it so much easier to translate all the inky thoughts running round my head.
Talk about working in colo(u)r versus B&W?
I don’t see it as a battle between colour or B&W. I initially leaned much more heavily towards B&W and still it dominates much of my work, but to be honest I only use colour when it works. I am having a bit of a colour renaissance at the moment due to a nifty bit of software, but it is not conscious. The editing process is pretty organic, thus I don’t usually know the outcome until I am sat down in front of photoshop. In reality, it is pretty spontaneous.
Where do you want to take your photography?
I am still at university at the moment, studying English Literature, but once I am free, I want to travel. It is without doubt my main wish; I want to drive across America, cataloguing all the people I meet there. That is, if I can find any money. I recently finished my first group exhibition in the AtomRooms gallery in Portobello. I learnt a lot from that experience, and that the art world can be one mean bitch, but I got an exhibition and what can people ask for at my age. At some point in the next year, I would like to start looking into a solo exhibition.
Artist’s playlist: U-Roy, Elvis Presley, Toots & the Maytals, Fatboy Slim, Oasis, David Bowie, Mos Def, Ibrahim Ferrer, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Ratatat, Dr. Dre, A Tribe Called Quest, Fake Blood, Thin Lizzy, Gil Scott-Heron, Tom Waits, The Maccabees, The Arctic Monkeys, Will Smith, Kanye West, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, Ludovico Einaudi, Bob Dylan, House of the Flying Daggers, Max Romeo, Mr. Scruff, Seasick Steve, P. Diddy, and Percy Sledge, all available here: Featured Artist: Jack Davison
Last night, Jack asked if I was writing an introduction for his feature, talking about where I found his work, why I chose him, take the opportunity to show what sort of writer I am, he said, and so, naturally, I told him no. I said there was no need to write any introductions. We’ll let the work speak for itself, I said, because he was getting a little cheeky, all right, so I figured I’d put him in his place by way of concealing the fact that I had no idea what to say for myself. Hadn’t written a word.
Now. To answer the question, honestly, it’s always the same. For the past two years, every week, I look at thousands of pictures on Flickr, jumping from one photostream to the next, from one group to the next, clicking page after page, and when I see an image that stops me, I invite the photographer to share that work with our group, and then I move on. At that stage, frankly, I just want to see as many artists as I can, so I almost never check a profile to see if the artist is male or female, their age, where they live or if they have a website—no, not yet. If they share an image with our group, invited or not, that’s when I take the time to look through as much of their work as I can. And that’s how it was in this case: a couple months ago, I saw a picture that didn’t look like anything I’d seen before, so I immediately sent an invitation, and after Flickr member Jack.ed kindly shared the photograph, I looked at his photostream.
As for the picture in question, the portrait of Hari, with her shock of short red hair, nude lips, the blue tint on the tips of her mascara’d lashes and that hint of collar bone, felt, at once, old and new; past, present and future, in no particular order; so many influences, yet completely self-possessed, I couldn’t put my finger on it. Huh. Artistically speaking, I guessed this Jack.ed fellow, whoever he was, must be an old soul—it happens, right, even to photographers. As I made my way through his photostream, and then moved straight to Jack’s website, looking at photo, after photo, understanding a little more and a little less, I got that feeling, that rush you get when you think you’ve discovered a new artist, when you still think you’re the one calling the shots. Only to realize, the moment you finally stop for a second and lean back in your chair, that the work has snuck up behind you, caught you unawares. Because, old soul or not, the photographer is twenty years old, and his career is just beginning.
Well, then. That’s how and where I found Jack, or vice versa. As to why I chose him to be the first artist featured in this series, I think it’s obvious, looking at the way he paints with a digital camera. Beyond that, though, in the bigger picture, Jack’s photography speaks to the beliefs with which I started this project, two years ago, and which have brought us here. Specifically, the extraordinary artwork that young people are creating, day in, day out, and sharing openly, bravely, all over the world. How tremendously creative, savvy and sophisticated these artists are. How hard-working, committed, utterly inspiring. And most of all, how very much I have to learn. Thank you.