Anna Mia Davidson
Anna Mia Davidson (annamiadavidson.com) is an award winning social documentary photographer based in Seattle, born in NYC. In her childhood home darkroom she learned to master the fine art of photography from her father, a Magnum Photography Collective photographer. Her early years were surrounded by the powerful photographic medium that she later adopted as her tool for social change. Photographer Gordon Parks’ Farm Service Administration images were an important influence, inspiring her commitment to social justice and environmental issues issues using her camera. She believes in the power of images to influence, inspire, and impact the way we see the world around us. Her work is informed by the issues of our times. Davidson seeks community based organizations and individuals within communities she photographs to become project allies, deepening the perspective within her work, helping change the narrative and increase representation for communities often left out of the artistic foreground. Anna has two published books; Cuba Black And White (Steidl), and Human Nature: Sustainable Farming in the Pacific Northwest (Minor Matters). Her exhibitions include Mucem Museum, Marseille France, Leica Gallery, LA, Howard Greenberg Galllery, NYC and Public Arts installations in New York, Seattle, England and Thailand. Commissioned works from Aperture, USA Television Network and Fotodocument. She is the recipient of numerous awards including two IPA awards and British Journal of Photography Portrait of Humanity People’s Choice Award. Her work is part of the Zoelner Art Center and City of Seattle’s permanent collections. Davidson was selected as 2016 Arts Envoy under the Obama Administration. She was Artist in Residence at Photo Center Northwest, lectured at Annenberg Space For Photography, Seattle Town Hall, and Internationally. When not on assignment she can be found teaching photography workshops in Cuba and America as well as hiking and Stand Up Paddle-boarding with her kids and dog.
LACP Interviews Anna Mia Davidson
LACP asks Anna Mia Davidson ten questions about their background, career in and beliefs about photography
Los Angeles Center of Photography: What kind of photographer are you?
Anna Mia Davidson: I am a freelance social documentary photographer. My career has encompassed photographing personal long term book projects and shooting for editorial and news media clients such as The Associated Press, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Modern Farmer Magazine, New York Magazine and others. My work has been exhibited in several major galleries and museums including Howard Greenberg gallery, NYC, Leica Gallery, LA, and Mucem Museum, Marseille France. I have two published photography books, Cuba Black And White (Steidl) and Human Nature: Sustainable Farming in the Pacific Northwest (Minor Matters Books). I have taught photography workshops for several years in Cuba and in The Pacific Northwest. I have received several Public Arts Grants and Commissions both in the United States and in the UK to create public art instillations in major cities. I have received two International Photography Awards and the British Journal of Photography’s People’s Choice Award for my environmental portrait work. Throughout my career I have been invited to speak at Annenberg Space For Photography, Seattle Town Hall, and was selected as an Arts Envoy under the Obama Administration where I taught workshops, gave photography lectures, and exhibited my work throughout Thailand.
LACP: How long have you been shooting?
AMD: Professionally since 1999 but I grew up learning the craft and business of photography since I was old enough to hold a camera.
LACP: Where did you get your training?
AMD: I consider myself ‘home-schooled’ in photography. I learned the fine art of photography in my childhood home darkroom and on the streets of NYC from my father, a Magnum Photography Collective photographer. My early years were surrounded by the powerful photographic medium I have adopted as a tool for social change. Photographer Gordon Parks’ Farm Service Administration images were also an important influence, inspiring my commitment to social justice issues using my camera. I grew up with my father’s photography studio in our apartment so the skills of running a photography business and industry savvy were ingrained in me from an early age. I also credit learning a lot about the photographic industry as an Eddie Adams Workshop participant, where I was hired afterwards for my first photo job as an Associated Press Stringer and through my early career years assisting workshops given by David Alan Harvey, Constantine Manos, Alex Webb and others.
LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?
AMD: The moment I realized the power of the photographic image as a tool for social change and impactful story telling I knew it was a path I wanted to continue to take.
LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?
AMD: Many times! But it is always through pushing through our edge that we find new possibilities.
LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?
AMD: Photography is not a simple strait forward path to take. As a woman it can be extra challenging since it tends to be a male dominated field. There have only been a select few before my generation that paved the way for us as women photographers. I have had to learn to juggle motherhood with being a professional photographer without a lot of examples set before me. I sacrificed some of my photojournalism career early on in order to be able to be home more with my children, when a New York Times assignment barely covers the cost of a babysitter you start to reconsider priorities. It was a lucky choice and during those years I was able to create several long term bodies of work and publish two photography books. The biggest sacrifice as a freelance photographer has been at times dependable financial security but in return I have had the creative freedom to create many bodies of work I may not otherwise have been able to do and have been savvy about how to fund those projects through public arts grants, commissions, awards, and assignment work.
LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?
AMD: I have gained incredible access into historical moments, and people’s lives. The opportunity to tell visual stories with impact. A gift of incredible life experiences around the globe that one could only dream of if not for this career.
LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?
AMD: I teach location and assignment photography workshops such as Assignment: Venice Beach, CA and On Location: Indio, CA (Shooting Coachella music festival and surrounding farming areas), combining street photography skills with environmental portraiture to get in close to people’s lives, tell visual stories with impact, and ultimately take image making to a deeper level.
LACP: What do you love most about teaching?
AMD: Teaching is a way that I can give back to the photographic community, by sharing my knowledge and helping to inspire others to develop their photographic vision. It is very rewarding to hear from past students in my workshops that they have been inspired to implement things they learned from my classes and applied them to their career to achieve their professional and creative goals.
LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?
AMD: I would encourage anyone who is thinking about making a career in photography to gain clarity on their motivation and vision. Tap into personal passion and what lights your fire, always come back to that core value. A photography career is so much more than just learning technique, it’s about anticipating moments, understanding art history, interpersonal skills, networking and relationship building, business and marketing strategy, and industry savvy all while maintaining integrity and authenticity for your own visual voice.