Robert Frank said the photograph must contain the humanity of the moment and convey a vision.
I exhibit humanity’s vision for itself. No Dark in Sight is funded to convey how artificial light occupies the night– as a dystopian condition rewriting our connection to night. Photography means to “write with light”, which is why the camera so perfectly narrates the story of our desultory nights.
When night looks like day, we have a problem. Using the Bortle Night Brightness Scale, I travel to make images in overly lit terrestrial sites. Focused on sustainable practice, I now realize we live in the false promise of a post-industrial revolution– immersed by inventions that dismantle the biosphere. Trained to see light as an ally, I now call it a frenemy. That may sound abstract but is not absurd. It’s okay to be afraid of the dark but less so to be unafraid of its absence. Light is not a hero and darkness no enemy.
Quality of light affects quality of life. Darkness is disenfranchised by light pollution. My dye sublimation aluminum prints explore why. Buildings disappear into an orange abyss, flora contort, food chains break, swarming insects collapse, industry spikes commercial lighting, and civilizations bask in the glow of electrified candles. Our diminishing biosphere cannot sustain consumer appetite for synthetic light. Secondhand light is a cultural and medical issue– not unlike secondhand smoke. Excessive light is a threat to wellbeing. We should not have a net opposition to engineered light, but rather an employment of its functionally wise applications.
Let there be (less) light. Humans embrace light’s defeat of darkness– but darkness is not the enemy. Institutionally, religiously, psychologically, and industrially, societies uniquely define light as a prerequisite for triumph over darkness. Fear of the dark is understandable but fake light is no savior.
Manufactured light is oppressive. It is concentrated in oppressed communities– thus it compromises already underserved populations. Let us not overlook the historical value of natural darkness to American slaves who used stars to navigate towards freedom.
Less natural is the new normal. Night has an identity crisis. Engineered light explains why. No Dark in Sightimplores viewers to consider this unsustainable “sky culture”.
This is a personal story about a public crisis. No Dark in Sight unfolds the slow-motion emergency of a pretty poison that charms us to digest this consumer convenience. To make these nocturne images I taste that poison– all to better contextualize the perceived normalcy of colonizing life at night with such grotesque and jaundiced auburn haze. It is a disquieting condition pathologizing our desire to regret an unwillingness to change– a zest to fail.
When night looks like night, we can embrace its lifeforce. No Dark in Sight exhibits why and how that matters by inviting populations to adopt foresight intelligence, employ reason, and manage their communities in less artificial ways.
No Dark in Sight coincidentally reimagines the critique and discussion about art. Future conversations must employ the foresight intelligence needed to sustain wellbeing for all. Environmental, economic, and social topics must drive future discourse.
Bill Davis lives and works near the Great Lakes in Michigan. His photographs are in museum and private collections in the U.S. and abroad.
He has worked on six continents to focus on sustainability and the human conditions that embrace or oppose it. His work meditates on public health and personal wellbeing– informed through the perspective of biography, terrestrial stewardship, and species extinction. Before his M.F.A., Davis relocated from Chicago's Pettersen's Studios to manage Pavel Banka’s Prague studio, assist teaching and coordination for Ohio University's Study Abroad, translate and teach Photo History for Umprum (Usti Nad Labem), and regionally exhibit. Upon return to the U.S., Davis received grants to work in Las Vegas, the Amazon Rain Forest, Machu Picchu, Peru, Paris (Institut d’Etudes Superieures des Arts), Spain (Torre Pujales Fndn.- Costa de Morte Museum of Cont. Art), Korea (Rotary), Vermont (Cone Ed./WMU Technology Grant), Michigan (Kalamazoo Arts Council) and exhibit in Athens, Greece (Siilk), Kiev (Photo Kyiv), Madrid (Ra del Rey), Edinburgh (The Royal Scottish Academy), Australia (Federal Arts Funding Body), UK (University of Leeds), The Cincinnati Art Museum, and Ukraine (Ohio Arts Council/CKSCP/Ukraine Union of Art Photographers) where he presented his work to U.S. Ambassador Pifer. Visit Stanford University's MAHB, Ukraine's VASA Project, and the online Arthur Museum to see his published artwork. He has managed two Study Abroad Programs, Western Michigan University's AASHE FLC reporting, and a Southwest Michigan Sustainability Leadership Summit.
Bill Davis received the 2021 Western Michigan University (WMU) Climate Change Teaching Fellowship. He was a finalist in the Midwest Center for Photography’s 2020 “Developed Work” International Fellowship Competition, recipient of Marshall University’s Annual Juried Exhibition 1st Place Award 2020, Black and White Magazine’s Honorable Mention, and the Perkins Art Center Juror’s Award. In 2013 he was awarded a fellowship to produce The Autism and Visual Art Project, a study on children and young adults with autism. In 2016, he received the WMU Sustainability Project Grant funded by WMU & the Milton Ratner Foundation as Principal Investigator for "Fare Share: Sustainability at Work". In 2017 he was awarded the WMU International Education Faculty Development Fund and Faculty Research and Creative Activity Award to document the use of artificial light to manage culture and its effect on the biosphere.
As his work intersects with human sentience and digital culture, he has lectured in the Americas, Australia, Asia, and Europe- from Harvard to Karlovo University. From his Michigan-based studio Davis embraces ink, silver, digital venture, and analog nostalgia- as core requirements for today's lens-based artists.
Buckham Gallery is funded by the following organizations:
Generous support is provided by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
Our activities are sponsored in part by an award from the MICHIGAN ARTS AND CULTURE COUNCIL and the NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS.
This program is sponsored by the Greater Flint Arts Council Share Art Genesee Grant Program made possible by the Genesee County Arts Education and Cultural Millage funds. Your tax dollars are at work!