When Adria Davis was in high school, her uncle, a professional sports photographer, took her on assignment to the Women’s World Cup in Los Angeles in 1999. It was that moment, photographing superstar strikers like Mia Hamm, she told herself, “this is what I want to do.”
Years later, she joined the three-year masters of fine art program with a focus in photography at CSU, Chico. Davis was grateful to be able to completely focus and develop her art for three years, an opportunity she knows she may never have again.
“It was the first time in my entire academic career that I truly felt challenged,” she said. “You make art and it forces you to really think about why you’re making it or what’s the concept that you’re working with. It really develops your ideas.”
Davis, who graduated in the spring and also has a BA in art from CSU, Chico, spent much of the three years in the program developing her culminating exhibition, “Out of the Ordinary.”
For her exhibit, Davis filled up her gas tank and drove all around Butte County to tell the stories of people’s homes and the spaces they occupy. Although no one appears in the series, the photographs are all about people and their personalities shown through their homes.
“My photographic practice is reminiscent of when I was a child, looking out the backseat window, while my parents discussed different stucco choices, paint colors and architectural styles of homes,” Davis wrote in her artist’s statement. “These photographs are direct responses to my environment. I am fascinated by the interplay of where public space meets private space. At that point, you begin to see how these places become portraits of the people who inhabit them.”
While Davis’ influences such as Walker Evans, Robert Adams and Henry Wessel are prevalent in “Out of the Ordinary,” she also found guidance in photography professor Tom Patton, who guided her throughout MFA program and culminating exhibition with critiques and honest questions.
“I appreciated his guidance because it distanced me from it being a personal experience,” she said. “Instead of it being an emotional experience of me presenting my personal work, he would help me develop the idea and really asked me ‘why are you doing this?'”
The guidance Patton gave her wasn’t just with her photography, he was instrumental in guiding Davis when she was brought into the department to teach film and digital photography classes while she finished her degree, a unique opportunity for MFA students. While Davis loved teaching digital photography because of the what-seems-endless options digital provides, Davis admires film photography because of its magic and history.
“It’s one thing to print off your piece from a printer but it’s so different when you’re in the darkroom and the very first time you print and see your image develop right in front of you is so amazing,” she said.
To view more of Davis’ photos, visit http://www.adriadavis.com/