Written by Juliana Mims
In one of his popular standards, Ray Charles sings, “The night time is the right time to be with the one you love.” Our featured artist, Photographer Shayla Davis, uses the night time to capture the subjects she loves. We recently chatted with Davis and learned where she got her start and what she’s up to now. When you see her work you’ll agree that this emerging photographer is on her way to the top of the game.
Some professionals will tell you that they’ve always known what they would become. Others can share a moment or chance experience that put them on a path to a different life. Think about how a random calligraphy class inspired Steve jobs to develop Macintosh. Shayla Davis, from Columbia, SC attended the University of South Carolina to major in graphic design. A couple of photography classes sparked her interest in a different art form. A local festival presented an opportunity to test her new skills. Vista Lights, an annual celebration that lights the way for the holiday season, was her introduction to nighttime photography.
When thinking about photography some of the most amazing shots are captured at night. Whether they be cityscapes, moonlit oceans, or fireworks displays, when featured against the backdrop of the night sky these and other subjects acquire another layer of intrigue.
According to Davis nighttime photography, “Can be more complex and harder to produce. With flash, you have to really monitor the image. Flash throws off the natural colors that appear at night.” Even the darkest skies aren’t truly pitch black. Davis works with flash and employs various sources of illumination to capture the night such as glow sticks, street lights, fairy lights, etc. One such alternatively lit image in her gallery immediately caught my eye. She captioned the photo with an Aristotle quote, “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” Certainly, that sentiment speaks to her artistry. Photography is her way of, “capturing moments and helping others not lose touch with memories.” Further echoing the Aristotle quote, she so eloquently explains, “[I use] shadows as the foreground to make people appear at one with the shadows so that they are at one with their darkness and wins and achievements.” It is in the dark that she focuses her imagery to keep a perpetual light on human complexity and big moments that might otherwise be lost (Note: As I’m wrapping this piece, in Paris a massive fire is burning atop the historic Notre Dame Cathedral. Eerily, this tragic event serves to highlight photography’s important role in capturing memories and recording history).
Davis isn’t just a nighttime photographer, she is also a fan of the genre and enjoys the work of other photographers. When asked what about her style sets her apart from others, she hesitates to box herself into a specific style. She does, however, recognize that photography is her chance to offer her unique input. She aims to set up shots that push viewers to think and question. “When taking a shot I want people to think about what it could be. Maybe the person is waiting, is the subject lost? I want people to think past what they’re used to seeing. Normally my photos are abstract enough to make people really think what is it.”
Beyond engaging viewers intellectually she also uses her photography to offer an emotional experience. “I like human emotion,” she says, “Not staged emotion, but real reactions. Even if I am staging a setting I usually go with the in-between candids. If they just so happen to look at me in confusion about a question (for example) then I capture that so that its real human emotion.” She also uses nonhuman subjects to create emotional imagery. She, “captures it by setting up a scene that evokes a certain feeling like sadness or nostalgia...like setting up books in a corner or by a fireplace - it induces warmth, or in the rain or cold, evokes loneliness...” As to her own emotions while behind the lens she, “Feels a sense of freedom. I’m not an outspoken person. I can do things that I wouldn’t normally do and express myself even if it’s not me in the picture.”
@maebe_art He asked me "What if I fall?" I replied "Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?"
(thanks to @just_zai_2u for being my subject)
The Blacque Canvas Magazine purpose is to highlight the talent of emerging black artists of various genres. Some of the artists we feature, though yet to achieve critical acclaim, they move with the confidence of a star who has arrived. Other’s step toward the spotlight with hesitation. Davis, with vulnerability, represents what it is to be an emerging artist, who is developing a craft while contending with insecurities. Fortunately, she is using her art to process those authentic feelings. She explains that, through photography, she can, “Express that I’m not perfect and that I have a lot of fears and insecurities that I don’t tell people because that makes me more vulnerable to criticism.”
To complete this article I took notes from our recorded interview. As I listened, I scrolled Shayla’s Instagram account. She has a gallery of powerful images which are an interesting contrast to her voice. She is soft-spoken in general and incredibly humble when speaking about herself as a photographer. The more I listened as I viewed the images I thought about the singer Michel’le. Anyone who’s ever heard the singer speak is blown away by the power of her singing voice. It appears Davis is at the powerful place of being moved by her own work. It is helping her to conquer her fears. With it, she says, “I speak out more not just verbally and also nonverbally. (Photography) pushed me to have confidence in going up to people. It really helps with my self-confidence.” She also wants her work to be part of her legacy, “I want to inspire others to dream and not be afraid of anything. Don’t let flaws and weaknesses stop them from feeling like they can do anything.” With her developing confidence she is is no longer afraid to show and promote her work on Instagram and other places. She may currently be operating in the darkness of typical emerging artist’s insecurities. Check out her gallery and you’ll see that what this emerging photographer is capturing in the dark will soon come to the light.
Shayla Davis is available to capture your big moments and events. Connect with her on Instagram or through her website: Follow her on Instagram @maebe_art
Check out her website:https://maebeart2017.wixsite.com/maebephotography
Juliana Mims is a sometimes writer, abstract artist, avid reader, and all around creative. You can connect with her on Instagram and her website: