Harold Davis was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. When he was five years old, his parents gave him a box camera and he fell in love with photography. Later, he became interested in painting, and studied figurative and abstract painting at the Art Students League, Bennington College, and elsewhere.
Rejecting the law career picked out for him by his parents, Davis opened a studio in New York, where he was part of the art scene in the 1980s, hanging out with artists including Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, Mark Kostabi, and Keith Haring. During this period Davis exhibited widely, including a one person show at Arras Gallery on 57th Street in New York and an exhibit at the New-York Historical Society.
Davis supported himself largely with commercial photography assignments, with a specialization in photographing jewelry and architecture. Assignments took him many places including across the Brooks Range in Northern Alaska on foot, to the environmental disaster at Love Canal, and above the World Trade Towers, hanging out the door of a helicopter by a strap.
In the early 1990s Davis married, and left New York first for a farm in Vermont, and then for the hills of Berkeley, California. During this time, looking for a new direction, Davis stopped painting and photographing. He held a number of different jobs and wrote the first of what were to become many books.
About these years Davis says, “I really felt bored with my art, and bored with the world. I needed some time away from the art world to recharge and rediscover my sources of inspiration.”
In 2004 Davis picked up a camera again and was delighted to find that he could combine his love of painting with his love of photography by starting with digital captures and using digital painting techniques to enhance his imagery. He delights in experimentation while using original, cutting edge technologies. While Davis’s work uses the latest technologies, it also harkens back to historic art traditions, including impressionist painting and Asian art.
Davis’s extraordinary imagery builds on the masterworks of the past while embracing revolutionary innovations in photography. He puts it this way: “I believe that advances in the technology and craft of digital photography have created an entirely new medium. My years of contemplation opened my eyes and my heart, and taught me to see more deeply. I use this alchemy of wonder to combine the traditions of painting and photography with new technology.”
From beginning to end, the techniques that Harold Davis uses are unique. Trained as a classical photographer and painter, his photographic images are made using special HDR (High Dynamic Range) capture techniques that extend the range of visual information beyond what the eye can normally see.
Davis creates and processes his images using wide-gamut and alternative digital methods that he has invented. His techniques combine the craft of photography with the skills of a painter
Davis is the author of more than fifteen bestselling books which explain his innovative techniques and present his extraordinary images.
Collectors appreciate the mysterious, powerful, evocative, and subtle nature of Davis’s imagery. One collector says that she gets the same feeling when looking at a Harold Davis print as she does after taking a good Yoga class. Photography collector Gary Cornell states, “I have collected Davis’s work for more than five years and am increasingly excited about the possibilities created by his unusual and effective use of technology in support of the classical tenets of photographic art. I would compare his work to Ansel Adams’s and Edward Weston’s work during the crucial 1930s and 1940s time frame.”
Davis makes his over-sized original prints on unusual substrates such as pearlized metallic and Washi rice papers. He was recently honored as a Moab Paper printmaking Master for his meticulously crafted handmade prints. He states, “I believe that nothing like my prints has ever been seen before. They simply could not have been created until recently because the technology wasn’t there. I am able to create in a domain where many techniques and crafts have come together for the very first time.”