Tim Davis: My life in politics

One People…, 2006

About the Exhibition

I began my career as an artist with a career as an editor. Working at a small, venerable, avant-garde publishing firm, I spent four years sitting in an Art Deco office building in Manhattan, reading poetry all day. I had an ideal life; but one I was ill-suited for. Once, during a weekly editorial meeting, I noticed the way a florescent light fixture reflected the street scene nineteen floors below. It was a moment of liberation. Bored and constrained by the strictures of a nine-to-five life, this little camera lucida on the ceiling radiated freedom. I returned to the office that weekend, pointed my own camera up, and photographed the light fixture. For a year I would go to work at off hours, on weekends and holidays, scouring the small set of seven offices for signs of redemption and clarity. Photography became more than a tool for understanding the world, it was a method of generating meaning. It was a way to survive.

Seeing myself as a case to study—a very small focus group—I approached the political world the way a landscape photographer might…

In the years since I have worked on many such reclamation projects, some with a narrow, and some with a wide bandwidth of attention. My Life in Politics was an attempt to discover what my political life looked like. Seeing myself as a case to study—a very small focus group—I approached the political world the way a landscape photographer might, searching the immediate environment for outstanding views and unusual outcroppings. I allowed myself to photograph only subjects I could come upon with no special access: going to protests, visiting government buildings, and above all driving through America in search of the ways politics erupts into our daily lives.

Modeled after Walker Evans’ American Photographs, which found political meaning in all areas of the Depression scene, from signage to portraiture, architectural elevations and interiors, My Life in Politics has a wide photographic scope. In many ways it is an effort to raise questions about the nature of the photographic project. It incorporates elements of other projects I have done: a concern for the cultural meaning of light, a passion for thorough, observant image-making, and a way to see the world with an eye that is both celebratory and critical.

– Tim Davis, 2006

Tim Davis studied photography at Bard College, graduating in 1991. He pursued a career as a poet and editor in New York before returning to photography, receiving an MFA from Yale University in 2001. He has since had solo shows in Brussels, Geneva, Whitecube in London, Milan, and New York, including a recent exhibition at the Bohen Foundation. His work is in the collections of the Guggenheim, Whitney, Brooklyn, and Metropolitan museums in New York; the Milwaukee Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, the Baltimore Museum, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Davis is the author of three books of photographs, My Life In Politics, from Aperture, Permanent Collection, published by Nazraeli, and Lots (Coromandel Express). He teaches photography at Bard College and is represented in New York by the Greenberg Van Doren Gallery.