Margo Davis

American Photographer | Born: 1944
Margo Baumgarten Davis is a photographer, educator and author of several photographer's books.

Margo was raised in Connecticut and has lived for over 30 years in Palo Alto, California. She attended Bennington College, spent time at the Sorbonne studying French literature, and graduated from University of California, Berkeley. It was at UC Berkeley where she met her first husband Gregson Davis and traveled frequently to his home country of Antigua. She has a daughter, Anika and a son, Julian.

Davis has produced photography in Paris, Italy, Nigeria and in the Caribbean, and has done a significant amount of portraiture. Davis has photographed Saul Bellow, Maxine Kingston, Tillie Olsen, Ursula K. Le Guin, Diane Johnson, and Kay Boyle.

In Nigeria, Davis produced a number of photographs of the Fula people.

Davis has spent time lecturing at Stanford on photojournalism with the communications department. She has also taught photography at University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, Santa Cruz.

In 2017, Margo's book Antigua: Photographs 1967-1973 was published by Nazraeli Press. At interview, Margo said she produced the book after hearing interest expressed at an exhibit in Antigua.

Antigua

As young artists, we are drawn to projects that help us understand truths about who we are and what we want to become. When we are just starting out, that process is intuitive, at times random; it is also intense and thrilling. This was my experience when I began photographing in Antigua in 1967.

It was the very beginning of a long journey in photography that is evolving to this day, 40 years later. From my first days in Antigua, I was overwhelmed by the timeless beauty of the place and especially by the strength of its people. I was born on the East Coast of the United States, a few thousand miles to the north. I was welcomed into a world and culture different from my own.

Starting with the Antigua photographs in this exhibit, my life's journey has been with a camera and with an eye for the landscape of the human face. Although I was often moved to photograph the beaches and sunsets, and the shapely old sugar mills and estate houses of the island, I am primarily a portraitist. Drawn to the people of the villages that dotted the island, my early inspirations came from the faces you see here.

Whenever possible, I asked permission to photograph - because the power of my portrait style depended on the comfort of the people that I was photographing. Since those early years, my interest in humanistic photography has propelled me into the world of various cultures. I have exhibited those photographs internationally and produced four books. However, it was on the island of Antigua where my passion for photography first began to flourish. Antigua Black; Portrait of an Island People was created and published in 1973.

I want to thank again all the Antiguans who helped make this collection possible.


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Antigua: Photographs 1967-1973
Author: Margo Davis
Publisher: Nazraeli Press
Year: 2017 - Pages: 72
The economy of all the Caribbean islands was determined by the transatlantic slave trade from the 15th to 19th centuries. From Cuba to Trinidad, rural island villages were homes to the stalwart African slaves who worked the sugar cane and cotton fields. Antigua, which is situated exactly at the elbow of the Caribbean island arc, is a microcosm of this history. When Margo Davis visited Antigua for the first time in July of 1967, she was struck by the faces of these villagers, and it is here that her passion for portraiture began.

When the Antiguan photographs were made, very little had changed from earlier colonial times. These stunning images have now become iconic. It is for this reason that Nazraeli Press is presenting this exquisite new monograph focusing on the people and culture of African heritage in the New World.

"Antigua: Photographs 1967 1973" is an ambitious work, beautifully printed in duotone on matt art paper in an edition of 1,000 copies. Margo Davis s work is in many private collections and the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, New York, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Cantor Center for the Visual Arts at Stanford University and the Sack Photographic Trust destined for San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
 
Under One Sky
Author: Margo Davis
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Year: 2004 - Pages: 116
Reach into the heart and soul of people from every inhabited continent through sixty tour de force black-and-white portraits by Margo Davis. Under One Sky is a collection of nearly forty years of portrait making by one of the inheritors of California's photographic legacy.

Esthetically powerful and convincing were words used by Ansel Adams in 1968 to describe the work of Davis (born Baumgarten) and her fellow students. Indeed, the same words can be used today in describing these portraits. As Davis says in her accompanying essay, "A portrait that has the power to truly look inward can shake us up and make us question our assumptions. Like the finest literature, a powerful photographic portrait permits us to leap into the other's mind and heart."
 
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