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Work Samples

Adam Davies

Filmed and edited by Samantha Mitchell, with support from Creative Alliance and MICA

Sideling Hill, Hancock, Maryland

2017 60 x 75 inches Archival pigment print

Paintballs, Birmingham Bridge, Pittsburgh

2017 60 x 75 inches Archival pigment print Paint shot with a paintball gun onto a bridge pier between the steep ravine separating the neighborhoods of Polish Hill and Bloomfield. The paint color is in stark contrast with the surrounding industrial environment. In a strange blend of violence and play, the paint application is reminiscent of abstract impressionism.

Triple Canopy

Portfolio, Text by Taylor Baldwin, part of "Urbanisms: Model Cities," published in Triple Canopy Magazine
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About Adam

Baltimore City - Highlandtown A&E District

Adam Davies’s photographs explore points of intersection between architecture and the natural world. He received a Master of Education from Harvard University and a Master of Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon University. He is a summer program instructor at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and previously held a full-time position as Lecturer & Media Specialist at the National Gallery of Art, Washington in addition to teaching positions at Carnegie Mellon, Catholic, Robert Morris, and Harvard... more

About Adam Davies

I study places in the American landscape that are overlooked or marginalized: deserted buildings, hidden passageways, the undersides of bridges. These are sites of dissonance: between order and disorder, beauty and neglect, wealth and poverty, decay and renewal, past and present. While devoid of people, they bear marks of human actions. Traces of graffiti, unexpected reflections, cobwebs, retrofitted alterations, and unusual debris reveal layered histories that pile, accordion-like, onto a single place.

I am interested in pictures that slightly disorient the viewer, creating a dreamlike sense of time and place. Rather than documentary photographs, I think of my works as psychological portraits of places seen through the gaze of the 8 × 10 inch large-format camera. This camera permits the lens to move independently of the film, allowing adjustments of perspective and focus to create images that are visually complex and immersive. The color negatives are drum scanned, color corrected, and printed at large scale (40 × 50 inches or larger) to maximize the resolution and subtlety of the film. The images are not otherwise digitally manipulated or changed.

Process: Using a Large Format Camera

How and why do I make photographs in the way that I do? I shoot my images on color negative film using an 8 × 10 inch large format camera. This camera permits the lens to move independently of the film, allowing adjustments of perspective and focus to create images that are visually complex and immersive. The color negatives are drum scanned, color corrected, and printed at a large scale to maximize the resolution and subtlety of the film. The images are not otherwise digitally manipulated or changed.

  • Working Process

    (Images from left to right) I photograph on 8 x 10 inch color negatives (image 1) that have to be developed and drum scanned to digitize them (image 2). The digital scans need to be carefully color corrected and spotted for dust and scratch marks. They then are printed on a large format photo printer (image 3) to maximize the resolution and subtlety of the film. The large photographs (60 x 75 inches in size) are mounted (image 4) onto DiBond (an archival aluminum substrate) and covered with a UV protective laminate.
  • Method (Murchison House, Provincetown)

    When I took the photograph on the left, a friend came with me and recorded the process. I like to take photographs from a height of about 8 feet, it helps flatten the immediate landscape and moves the horizon line up the plane of view. The bottom right image shows my camera, an 8 x 10 inch metal view camera made by Canham. The front (lens) and back (film) of the camera move independently from each other.
  • Level of Detail (I-95, Baltimore)

    I use large format sheet film for the level of detail and subtly of color that the negatives provide. The images can be printed at a very large size (60 x 75 inches or larger) without a loss of resolution. This image attempts to illustrate this: the black bag in the photo on the upper left can be enlarged to see the crushed cans inside it. The text on the paper is also legible.
  • Depth of Field (McCoy Ferry Bridge, MD)

    The term "depth of field" refers to what part of the image is in focus in the picture and what is not. Through adjusting the aperture and tilting the lens, the view camera allows for almost a limitless depth of field. For example in this photograph, everything is in focus from the foreground to the back of the picture. This provides an experience that is radically different from how our eyes see. It creates unique relationships between elements within the picture that only exist in the photograph.
  • Adam Davies

    Filmed and edited by Samantha Mitchell, with support from Creative Alliance and MICA

The Writing on the Wall: Graffiti and Public Space

Over the past two years I have been researching and exploring the modification of public spaces through acts of graffiti (wall writing, mark-making, and other graphic forms of civic protest). Since the early 1980s, graffiti has increasingly appeared in urban centers to accompany — and comment upon — a political trend towards privatization that has left works of public infrastructure marginalized, neglected, and offered up as symbolic canvases for the interventions staged by graffiti makers. Premising this project upon the argument that these structures — roads, bridges, tunnels, rail lines — have thereby been transformed into accidental civic forums for some of the most pressing concerns of modern-day society, I explore the implications of graffiti for the spaces it alters.

  • Fuck U, Stonehouse Road, WV

    2016 75 x 60 inches Archival pigment print Written on the unusual concrete supports crossing the Greenbrier River, the text is aggressive, cutting, and possibly humorous. Does it comment on small-town boredom? Or, in an area whose economy has suffered heavily over the past few decades, does it refer to the road supported by the bridge, Interstate 64, which functions as the main route into and out of the area? Perhaps most curious of all, how did the writer manage to get to the site in the first place?
  • Pain is all in your mind! Pedestrian bridge, Pittsburgh

    2017 60 x 75 inches Archival pigment print The phrase is written on a pedestrian bridge running over Interstate 279 in Pittsburgh's Northside. While the interstate highway below leads to some of the affluent suburbs surrounding the city, this bridge connects two rather isolated, poor communities and is littered with drug paraphernalia. The text can be read as affirmative but within the the context of the space, it also seems tragic and cynical.
  • Get Out! Penn Lincoln Parkway, Pittsburgh

    2017 75 x 60 inches Archival pigment print Next to the Monongahela River and under the highway, is a drawing of a man wearing an anarchist t-shirt, holding a sign saying "Get Out!" with a cartoon bomb drawn on the right.
  • EPTIC.THE.SKEPTIIK, G.W. Memorial Parkway, Arlington, VA

    2017 60 x 75 inches Archival pigment print The tag, "EPTIC.THE.SKEPTIIK" written under the George Washington Memorial Parkway across the Potomac River from downtown Washington, DC.
  • Paintballs, Birmingham Bridge, Pittsburgh

    2017 60 x 75 inches Archival pigment print Paint shot with a paintball gun onto a bridge pier between the steep ravine separating the neighborhoods of Polish Hill and Bloomfield. The paint color is in stark contrast with the surrounding industrial environment. In a strange blend of violence and play, the paint application is reminiscent of abstract impressionism.
  • Whitewashed Graffiti, Kelly Avenue, Baltimore

    2013 40 x 50 inches Archival pigment print The pillars under this bridge have been repeatedly "bombed" with graffiti. Each campaign of mark-making was then covered over with a layer of whitewash, presumably in an effort to restore order to the space — before the graffiti maker's return. The ever-evolving pattern of squares at the bottom of each pillar represent different moments of erased language in an ongoing aesthetic battle between the "writers" and those that "maintain" the space.
  • Overflow Culvert, Montauk Highway, New York

    2014 40 x 50 inches The photograph shows a pond overflow culvert (a waterfall and tunnel used to divert pond water under the highway). Layered with graffiti and bathed in soft light at either end of the tunnel, it strangely suggests the elaborate fountains and grottos of renaissance Italy.
  • Smiling Tree, Philadelphia

    2016 75 x 60 inches Archival pigment print Located directly under the Blue Route Expressway, this tree has been given a painted face that is humorous, surreal, and anthropomorphic. Its isolated position under the bridge's shadow probably explains its lack of leaves in comparison to its neighbors.

Marginal Structures: Public Infrastructure

In the early 1980s, the governments of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher instituted a neoliberal privatization of public services whose impact resonates today. One effect has been the marginalization and neglect of the public infrastructure — bridges, tunnels, dams — that has been the subject of my work over the past six years.

I am fascinated by the unexpected space created by and within these overlooked, forgotten, even abandoned architectural structures. These are sites of dissonance: between order and disorder, beauty and neglect, wealth and poverty, decay and renewal, past and present. While devoid of people, they bear marks of human actions. Traces of graffiti, unexpected reflections, cobwebs, retrofitted alterations, and unusual debris reveal layered histories that pile, accordion-like, onto a single place.

Dreams

In the projects, The Writing on the Wall and Marginal Structures, I explore through my photography aspects of the political and social issues arising from the juxtaposition of architecture and the natural world. In contrast, in Dreams, inspired by the magic realism of cinematographers such as Kurosawa and Tarkovsky, I attempt to evoke the sense of wonder, disorientation, and mystery produced in the face of natural phenomena.

Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

2014 and 2015, was a difficult period personally as a number of people close to me, family and friends, were diagnosed with cancer. Struggling with the frustration and worry that comes from seeing those close to you suffer, I became friends with Julia Langley, Director of the Georgetown Lombardi Arts and Humanities Program. In 2016, she commissioned me to produce four large format photographs to be permanently installed in the Georgetown's Lombardi Cancer Center’s new building.

The Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center clinic is a highly stressful place. Patients wait quietly to see their doctors in a crowded, windowless waiting room. Within the primarily white, beige, and grey hospital clinic, the photographs I chose were intended to provide a view into a colorful, imaginative, external world. I thought of these photographs as offering a metaphorical window, mental escape, and respite for patients and caregivers from the emotional difficulties that accompany cancer diagnoses and treatment.

The process of collaborating with Julia on this project for Lombardi gave me a new way to think about my practice. In many ways, my photographs are highly personal, stemming from a lengthy process of scouting sites by myself and from hours spent alone, waiting to capture an image. Here, though, I was pushed to think much more concretely about how audiences would use the images for their own emotional or imaginative needs. It was powerful and humbling to feel that my work could be drawn into this type of larger dialogue and perhaps support people in a time of need.

On the Road

While the majority of my work in the past six years has been focused upon the specific characteristics of the mid-Atlantic region, artist residencies including the Chinati Foundation, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and Yaddo have provided opportunities to travel and to explore radically different landscapes.

Other Media (Drawing and Painting)

During my MFA at Carnegie Mellon University, I primarily focused on painting. I thought of my work as a response to the idea that failed technology could create new landscapes (e.g. Chernobyl). I was fascinated with art history, and interested in exploring and playing with the traditions of landscape and history paintings filtered through contemporary techniques. Many of the ideas and constructions of these early works seem reappear in different forms in my current photographs. I no longer actively paint — a couple years after graduating, I gravitated back towards photography as my primary medium (I had previously studied photograph as an undergraduate).

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Adam's Curated Collection

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