Jack Davison-In conversation with Kathy Ryan — Thoughts

Callum Richard Smith
4 min readOct 1, 2020

Jack Davison is an English Photographer who has done work in the US for New York Times Magazine. He tends to do portraits and other pieces of work in a street photography esc style. This is shown through his use of natural light and the surreal and unusual way that he takes is photographs. Jack Davison has no formal photographic education, instead he has learnt most of what he know from his girlfriend and Brett Walker (a well established photographer) During the time that I watched this interview it helped me more in the sense of knowing what Photography it is that I want to do, the style that I like and the route that I would like to follow.

Davison originally wanted to be a painter but realised quickly that he wasn’t very good. Instead he found that in photography he was able to express himself and found it easier to show what he wanted to show through a camera. As I said before his work has a very surreal look and he uses things he finds or the world around him to create effects and a stylised and a dystopian world. For example the image above shows this with the use of the natural light leaking through an old straw umbrella I think is what he said it was. Other examples are this image here.

One point that Davison talks about is keeping a camera on you at all times because you never know what you will see at anytime so he thinks that this is a good practice because it will be the one time you don’t have the camera that you’ll need it most and then that moment will be gone. This was talked about the article I read last week with Paul Graham.

“Chance favour the prepared mind” — Louis Pasteur. This is a good lesson for photography because I have never really prepared for anything prior to this course and I’ve enjoyed this part so far because I feel more ready for the work that I do and I can be more clear on what it is I'm trying to say in the image. Planning I now see as a thing that would be good to do all the time.

The two of them then go on to talk about research briefly and I liked how they said it, ‘It doesn't have to be research, it can be just looking, looking, looking,’ just by looking at the world around and seeing different things and experiencing new things, we can learn a lot and that can be the research. These things could be films, paintings, art and anything visual, maybe not visual. You could read a book and gain knowledge for an image from inspiration.

Something else that was covered was always staying alert and switched on because something could happen and you could miss it so being ready for that moment that could make a great image. This could be related to when Davison took the images of Denzel Washington with the mirror as Denzel Washington was trying to make it difficult to create the image that Davison wanted and when maybe he shouldn't be taking images he saw an opportunity by staying switched on and aware of what is happening in the moment.

Checking back through hard drives at old work and finding something that you might not have seen before is something that I do anyway but I think it is a good thing to do. This is because you can learn something from yourself like maybe to look to do more work like that image because there is a good technique. Another thing is to see how far I have come in the photography and seeing different things that I might not have seen when the image was taken. This I think can help learn the style that you can make and what you like and what you don’t.

Reaching out to other photographers was covered slightly when he talks about his time with Bret Walker. What I took from this is that I don’t interact with other artists pretty much at all and that this is a very good tool to use and I could learn a lot from talking to other people rather than just looking at their work. It can be ‘hard to find good critiques of your work’ and I’m hoping to come across someone that can be critical and show me how to really improve my work.