Shannon Davis is a photographer, design director and has been an adjunct professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design in the Motion Media Department since 2008. She began her career as a creative director, launching the channel Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in the U.S. and Europe.
Her immersion into these classic film libraries as well as her hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. have shaped her aesthetic and approach to photography. With an instinctive pull toward the common man, the forgotten and overlooked, all of her photographic series take on a cinematic approach, exploring a sense of identity and place.
About ‘I got somethin’ to show you‘:
In the shadow of 200ft high concrete grain elevators in Buffalo, NY is a community known as The Old First Ward. The buildings and people share a similar defiant and vulnerable look, worn down but standing unflinchingly before you as if to state, “I’m not goin’ anywhere.” This series captures the coexistence of the monolithic past represented in the dilapidated grain elevators and the resigned spirit needed to live in an area known for its lack of jobs but plenty of lake effect snow.
Historically, The Old First Ward has been home to a strong Irish heritage where generations of families have lived in the same house and worked in the elevators. It is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone. Where an unfamiliar car is given a scrutinizing stare and a photographer is questioned with skepticism. From the very beginning I was met with the look of, “Why would you want a photograph of me?”, which quickly led to them deflecting my interest in them and instead wanting to share something more worthy to take a photograph of. Once I noticed a family sitting on their front porch. They were hesitant at first to let me photograph them but after a few moments the woman said, “I got somethin’ to show you.” She went inside and came out with a large tropical parrot. The realization that this rare bird lived in a frigid climate in a house in need of much repair, seemed a metaphor for living in this area. Even if you can’t find a job, you can’t afford to fix your home or can’t keep custody of your child, there is something you hold dear and find precious. It is hope against pity.
I keep being pulled back to this neighborhood, these people. I find myself an outsider wanting to be accepted into their close-knit community. Their simple lives conceal the layers of complexity they are trapped in. As they reveal themselves, faces so unguarded, buildings in perpetual inertia, I stand before them feeling respect. Then they tell me a little more and I realize, I don’t have what it takes, I’m only cut out to observe. Regardless, after each encounter, each visit I am aware that I like who I am when I’m with them, I’m my best self. So, I keep going back to photograph, bringing copies of photos from the last visit to share and I find myself saying, “I got somethin’ to show you.”