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Palmer Davis ~ A Storyteller with a lens

"Traces" © Palmer Davis (from "American Stories")

I first met Palmer Davis in November of 2010 when I took his “Stranger than Fiction” class at ICP.  At that time I sensed the need to recharge my creative batteries and be in a group setting again.  My decision to take the class proved to be one of the best things I’ve ever did.  From day one I was both awed and inspired by Palmer’s incredible insight, knowledge and thoughtfulness.  Not only did the class reenergize me but, more importantly, it opened up an entire new approach to photographing.

Palmer exudes an excitement about life in general and photography in particular.  He is a terrific teacher, a wonderful person and a talented photographer.  Since 2011 I had the honor to assist Palmer in four other classes at ICP and have enjoyed these experiences profoundly.

Palmer has shown great interest and faith in my photographic endeavors.    He has also encouraged me to explore my own teaching capabilities.  I consider him my mentor and am truly grateful for all his support.  I recommend wholeheartedly his classes!  Take one – it might just change your life for the better!

About Palmer Davis Photography:

There is a magic realism to Palmer’s imagery which has more to do with a sense of wonder then irony.  It’s a sensibility based in an innate appreciation of beauty and a genuine joie de vivre.  Palmer’s photographs contemplate everyday moments by framing what makes these moments come to be in a given instance.  He is a keen visual anthropologist and his images work like landscapes of cultural detritus.  Palmer finds a Zen in it all and as he states his  “pictures evoke a sense of place and time and tell a story.”

It’s being in the right place at the right time, but most importantly being somewhere when the light is just right and enchanting.  Palmer’s work, much like Edward Hopper’s, though based in reality comes across as if a reverie.  His curiosity about the world around him, and I mean the entire world, drives him to explore near and far.  And throughout he notices things and moments that delight him and capture his imagination.  His photographs are like visual chapters of compelling stories about a variety of things, both archetypal and mythical, that form our immediate realities.  The common thread among his many projects is the use of color and the sensual lushness he brings out in almost any given subject matter.  There is also a wonderful sense of play not just of the visual elements but also in the way his imagery beckons us to look for clues in it. Palmer’s imagery at first glance might seem straightforward but in fact it is quite complex and subtly mysterious.

In “Traces” appearances are suspect:  though we are offered a glimpse to an inside of a space (perhaps a storefront?), we cannot get beyond what the glass window reflects back – the gable ends of stately, Victorian brick buildings, an old-fashioned looking lamp post, tree tops and the skies above.  On closer examination some things inside do reveal themselves: the delicately ornate tin ceiling, couple of thin pipes running parallel to it, the wall’s wainscoting paneling  and a hanging planter.  The planter appears plastic and echoes the wall’s vertical motifs; a geranium like plant spreads out its flowery stems.  What are the ‘traces’ referred to in the title?  Since the image is part of the “American Stories” project and the reflection in it suggests an urban atmosphere, albeit one from early XX century, the title seems to conjure up themes from “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. “Traces” perhaps refers to a way of life that once was or at least our fantasy of it.

“Rooftop View” places the viewer in the figure of a woman in a sari.  Her back is towards us and we assume she’s looking up at a group of young girls sitting or standing next to each other on a rooftop of a strange brick building.  The woman’s figure directs our own gaze upwards and we wonder about her relationship to the group beyond her reach. This is a bewitchingly splendid image. Part of the “In the Mystical Realm of Color,” it is just pure pleasure to look at – the composition, the colors and the subject matter all work together harmoniously.

As the sheer visual beauty sets in, questions about it abound.  Suddenly the photograph is a puzzle.  It suggests illusions and notions of inside/outside dichotomies.  The woman in the foreground is not part of the group on the rooftop.  Whether she desires to be part of it or not remains a mystery and the visual clues don’t seem to imply either way.  In fact should the color and the wonderful light about it get stripped away, the reality it portraits might appear harsh.  The rooftop is part of a larger structure that looks inhospitable with couple of window openings bricked over and the entire façade unfinished and worn.  With this in mind the group of girls now seems contained, cornered almost without the means to freely go outside.  The woman with her back to us also seems to be unable to move forward.  In the back of her there is a pile of bricks strewn about and in front of her lie twisted tree limbs – a subtle metaphor for being stuck between a rock and a hard place. What appears to be a door to a possible courtyard leading  to where the girls are seems almost painted on, a mirage of accessibility.  As Palmer has stated about this project and his travels throughout India “…in this ancient land, it was the intoxicating power of color that marked the way – luring me down a rabbit hole to a magical world of intense beauty and wonder.”

Palmer Davis’ work is like a fine E.M.Forster novel that is hard to put down and looking at his images gives us a room with a view to a dream.   Enjoy!


"Beer and Cigarettes" © Palmer Davis (from "American Stories")

"Superheroes" © Palmer Davis (from "Days of Summer")

"Magic Sky" © Palmer Davis (from "Lost Highway")

Party Ballons © Palmer Davis (from "American Stories")

Clothesline © Palmer Davis (from "Days of Summer")

"Off Season" © Palmer Davis (from "Off Season")

"Wharf" © Palmer Davis (from "Off Season")

"Red Sari" © Palmer Davis (from "In the Mystical Realm of Color")

"Rooftop View" © Palmer Davis (from "In the Mystycal Realm of Color")


Top Photography Films - Palmer Davis - […] reading: Palmer Davis – A Storyteller with a lens (Monika Photo), Palmer Davis on Culturehall, The Quiet Eye of Palmer Davis (Empty Stretch) and […]

The Nature of Photographs – A Primer, by Steven Shore

This is a neat, succinct, and poignant proposition by Steven Shore on the essential elements, “levels,” in photography that are unique to the medium. The three levels are:

Physical Level
Depictive Level
Mental Level

The levels are used as tools in looking at photographs and understanding them as physical objects. It is a contemplation of how a moment becomes a photograph and helps us see photographs separate from a reality they may depict.
The book grew out of a course Mr. Shore taught at Bard College and it reads almost like a slide presentation.
Or a poem.
I’m including a quote below from the book – something to think about.

“The artist starts with a blank page and must fill it. The photographer starts with the clutter of the world and must simplify it.” Stephen Shore

RANGE II ~ an exhibition


Curated by Peter Dudek

July 3-18, 2012
Opening Reception Friday, July 13, 5-8pm

Artists’ Salon Tuesday, July 10, 6pm
Moderator Leslie Ferrin and Curator Peter Dudek will engage artists from the Pioneer Valley and the Berkshires in a moderated conversation. All are welcome to participate in or observe the dialog with local artists. A reception will follow.

A.P.E. Gallery 126 Main Street Northampton, MA
Contact: Lisa Thompson, 413.586.5553 or

RANGE [Part 2]
A cultural exchange between
the Berkshires and Hampshire County.

A few years back, Leslie Ferrin moved her gallery from Northampton to Lenox. That change in location unexpectedly triggered an artistic dialog between Hampshire County and the Berkshires. When Curator Peter Dudek first met Leslie, he was the Director of the Storefront Artist Project in Pittsfield and Leslie, knowing that he actively sought to engage artists from the surrounding areas, suggested an exchange of sorts, a two part exhibition where artists from one county would show in the other. Thus, Range, an exhibit curated by Elizabeth Stone, was born and appeared at the Storefront in the fall of 2009. Range contained the work of seven young artists from the Northampton region displaying a wide range of artistic practices.

Range II is the second half of this exchange and continuation of the dialog. It additionally includes seven artists with diverse and roaming practices. All have exhibited with the Storefront and beyond; all welcome this opportunity to again engage with their artistic neighbors.


Maggie Mailer’s paintings display an inventive mix of color and narrative. This combination jabs at ones collective memory, resulting in an unanticipated cognitive jolt. It may not hurt, but does it stay with you.

Michael McKay’s artwork sources cold war imagery and supermarket displays. An odd coupling that is rational, yet not. Fear, malaise and an irrational belief in the future plays out in this unsettling scenario. The result? Anyone’s guess.

Christin Couture unearths an almost forgotten nether world, a dim and hazy past that lingers on, just beyond our consciousness. Through her modest sized evocations, Christin induces a memory, a sense, of an unknown time.

For David Ricci chaos and color is all. His image dense photographs are ensnarled with lines and chunks. It is a freefall into detritus filled abysses, wrought by man and nature. Large, bold and direct. There is no ambiguity here.

Monika Sosnowski photographs the ephemeral nature of being. A strange beauty rooted in the unexpected and the awkward. Everyday wonders, previously overlooked or submerged, rise to the surface of her photographs, becoming known, or at least less unknown.

Peter Dudek enlists a miscellany of mid-century architecture, modernism, color theory and cartoon knowledge in the making of his episodic sculptures. By orchestrating diverse subject matter with scavenged materials, he produces familiar yet distanced ensembles.

Bill Hosie’s installations, made from found, fabricated and altered found things, are a rambling discourse on the world around him. There might be a story here, deep inside his maze-like logic, or could this be a creation without intention? No.


Peter Dudek has once again done his alchemy in assembling a delectable group of artists who offer a compelling range of impressive visual sensibilities in painting, drawing, sculpture and photography .  Thank you for including me in this superb exhibition!

Hope to see some of you next Friday, July 13th at the opening reception.

For those in the area this Tuesday please attend the special Artist Salon talk at the gallery where most of the artists will engage in a discussion regarding their work with the curator extraordinaire, Mr Peter Dudek and the Berkshires’ premier gallerista Ms. Leslie Ferrin – 6:00 pm at the gallery.



Awaiting © Monika Sosnowski, 2012 (from Reverberate)

Photographing The Realm of The Personal: A Workshop

Calling all photographers, artists, photo enthusiasts, creatives and kindred souls in the Berkshires and beyond!

I’ll be leading an intensive three Saturdays workshop at IS 183 in Stockbridge, MA starting July 28th:


Often, some of the most powerful and touching imagery can be found right where we live. By turning the lens inward into our private lives we can discover a wonderland of treasures! Through a series of exercises students will learn to look at their lives from different angles to find intriguing visual moments. Our goal is to find ways to photographically express feelings, to capture the ephemeral and to transform the banal into something lyrical. To demonstrate how the personal becomes universal we will look at the work of both contemporary and historical photographers such as: Elinor Carucci, Tracey Baran, Larry Sultan, Roy DeCarava, Uta Barth, Sally Mann, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Nan Goldin and Mitch Epstein among others. At the end of the workshop students should have at least ten images to add to their portfolios and a new awareness of their work’s possibilities.

I’m looking for a small, intimate and kick-ass group of folks for this workshop to challenge and inspire one another with a passion for awesome image!  Register at IS 183.

To quote Henri Cartier-Bresson:
“To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It’s a way of life.”
Let’s make it happen.


Meghan - This looks great. Wish I was going to be in the area those weekends. Will you do anything similar in the city at some point? Let me know. Hope all’s well.

Monika Sosnowski - Meghan – good to hear from you! Thanks! I’m excited about it! Nothing planned for the city in the near future but who knows what opportunities will open up. I think I’ll be assisting Palmer again in the Fall. By the way, in additional to his regular evening classes, he will be giving a new class during the day, which will be very project oriented and without the lectures. Hope you’re enjoying the summer and taking lots of beautiful photos. 🙂