Category Archives: Writing

Podcast with Harold Davis: A New Era for Black & White


Internationally-known digital artist and award-winning photographer Harold Davis joins the Mid CenturyBooks podcast to discuss his 2017 book, THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S BLACK AND WHITE HANDBOOK

Thap Rua (Turtle Tower) © Harold Davis

Part 2, A New Era for Black and White

Harold Davis: “We came to the end of an era, pretty much, with film photography, and in fact, there was a time when the only photography anyone could do was black and white. Then, color film photography became the ascendant thing. And now we have an entirely new art form with a lot of new craft involved, and the idea behind the technical parts of this book, and it’s not that I’m going to tell everybody exactly what slider to press, with what software, but more the principles and ideas of how digital black and white photography work.”

Click here for the podcast, and see the latest additions to the Mid Century Books (sponsor of this podcast) photography collection

Click here for Part 1 of the podcast, Black & White Photography in the Digital Age.

Also posted in Photography

The Long and Winding Road Takes the Path Less Traveled!

To fully understand my art and the man behind the lens, one needs to understand the unique path I’ve taken—which is definitely a “Road Less Traveled”—and learn a bit more about who I am. The definition works both ways round: my work in part defines me, and who I am defines, energizes, and bounds my work, and gives my art the power that it has. 

In other words, since I have been at it a while, my work as an artist and photographer can be said to be the face I deserve. My work in large measure defines me, although of course I am also a husband, father, and lover of wild things.

Read Behind the Lens with Harold Davis on the Topaz Labs Blog, which I wrote to give some idea of the long and winding path less traveled that I’ve taken to become the artist and photographer I am today.

Road Less Traveled by Harold Davis

Road Less Traveled © Harold Davis

On Beauty and Art

Liz writes the Exploring Colour Blog from New Zealand. She used my image of the Blue Danube in a story on the color Indigo. Next, Liz was stimulated to start a series of guest pieces on What and Where is Beauty. She asked me to write the first blog on the topic, which I titled On Art and Beauty. I have been meditating a great deal about the role of beauty in contemporary art and photography, so the words just came tumbling out.

Salutation to the Sun © Harold Davis

What is beauty? What is the place of beauty in art? Surprisingly, these are contentious and difficult questions that involve some very slippery concepts. In the past couple of centuries, since the end of representational art as the ultimate goal of the artist, the role of beauty in art has become increasingly vexatious.

This is particularly troublesome in the context of photography, which necessarily has some representational components, and the rise of the hegemony of conceptual art.

Read more…

Podcast with Harold Davis

Check out this wonderful interview with me in a podcast produced by Mid Century Books. Click here for the podcast, here for the Mid Century Books blog story, and here for The Photographer’s Black & White Handbook on the Mid Century Books website.

Tables and Chairs, Valletta © Harold Davis

Here’s the description of the podcast: Internationally-known digital artist and award-winning photographer Harold Davis joins our podcast to discuss his 2017 book THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S BLACK AND WHITE HANDBOOK. Davis is a professional photographer, as well as teacher, world traveler, story teller, and he is a classically trained painter. A multi-published author, his writing is as evocative as his art, and this comes through in his visual style. In fact, he values writing so much, he calls himself a “photographer as poet.” He started his career in the New York art scene of the 1980s. Later, he spent time in California’s technology industry. Now Harold Davis heads his own studio in Berkeley, CA.

Part 1, What Should Be in a Photographer’s Backpack

Tuscan Road © Harold Davis

Darkness into Light

This spring I visited and spent a number of days and nights in the world’s largest cave, in the jungle mountains of central Vietnam. Fewer people have been to the cave than have been into space. This was a journey of 6,000 miles to the other side of the world, and an arduous trek through the jungle, down precipices, and across narrow and high bridges in the darkness with water gurgling far below.

For me, the appeal of visiting the world’s largest cave was less to do with the “cavey things”, or even the varied landscapes and portals of the cave, and more to do with where one begins to see the light. In other words, this was a spiritual quest as all journeys are, or should be.

A core component of my quest was to peer into darkness and distinguish the void from the light, to attempt to examine this darkness and light in the context of the basic structure of photography, which is also about darkness and light.

Stalactites, stalagmites, and other geological wonders of the speleology are fine in their place. This is a landscape that is quite difficult to photograph traditionally in the absolute darkness of the void, and in the absence of logical markers of scale that we see in a more normal landscape. A challenge is always intriguing, but difficulties aside, the speleological features don’t interest me photographically.

What does appeal to me is the cave as metaphor, and metaphorical experience. From darkness we are born, sometimes easily and sometimes with difficulty, and emerge from the cave naked into the light.

Cave Shadows © Harold Davis

We struggle towards the light, and live with what we see in the shadows. At the other end another dark tunnel awaits, with who-knows-what on the other side.

Let There Be Light © Harold Davis

This is the story of our lives—with love, passion, and our journey from darkness to light. In the end, this reverses and we return to the void. At its best, a compelling image can help put us in touch with a piece of this journey. Always we must wonder: are we looking at reality, whatever that may be, or at a pale shadow, flickering on the walls of our cave?

Also posted in Vietnam

Shameless Quote Department

“Harold Davis is the digital black and white equal of Ansel Adams’s traditional wet photography. Adams would be awed by Davis’s work. In The Photographer’s Black and White Handbook Davis presents a large number of his photographs, and virtually every one is a masterpiece, ready for gallery or museum exhibit.”Seattle Book Review, rated five out of five stars and cross-posted in the San Francisco Book Review

Click here for more “Shameless Quotes”, click here for monochromatic (black & white) images on my blog, and here for current workshop offerings.

White River Falls, Oregon © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Fulsome Praise for The Photographer’s Black & White Handbook

I am blushing! From the Seattle Book Review: “Harold Davis is the digital black and white equal of Ansel Adams’s traditional wet photography. Adams would be awed by Davis’s work. In The Photographer’s Black and White Handbook Davis presents a large number of his photographs, and virtually every one is a masterpiece, ready for gallery or museum exhibit. In spite of the coffee-table quality of this volume, Davis meant to give us a teaching tool, a handbook for serious digital photographers.” Click here to read the full review.

Introducing Multiple Exposures

Phyllis and I are working on an artist’s book—really a booklet—based on my Multiple Exposures body of work. The title, Multiple Exposures, is a play on the technique used, and the fact that the models in the images are exposed (so if female nudity offends you, this work is not for you).

The style of this artist’s book is what we’ve come to call a “pocket” portfolio. It is printed and hand-bound here in my studio, with the intended use of showcasing my images (with some our our pocket portfolios, Moab Paper has also used them at trade shows to demonstrate various paper stocks).

While Multiple Exposures will not be for sale, constructing it is labor intensive and copies are obviously limited. I truly believe that each copy will be regarded as a valuable collectible in times to come. If you are an art gallery interested in this work, or a collector interested in a print, I am happy to arrange for a personal showing.

Wheel of Life © Harold Davis

Here’s the introduction I wrote for the Multiple Exposures artist’s book:

As a technique, the in-camera multiple exposure has its roots in the film era, with notable examples including the surrealistic imagery of Man Ray and others. The digital era has to a great extent eclipsed the use of the multiple exposure, but this forgotten and important element of our photographic heritage can be used to make images that are difficult—or impossible—to create in post-production alone.

Working with a model, the process is both choreographic and collaborative. The model and I agree on the shape that is to be created using the individual components of the multiple exposure, and establish marks. The model then takes each position in turn, and with a great deal of bidirectional communication I fire the strobes and camera on a dark background.

Some of my original thinking when I began this work was to reference relevant historical art using the medium of the in-camera multiple exposure, hence Rodin, Picasso, and Marcel Duchamp. But as I went along I became more interested in creating entirely new elements of the life force. In some sessions this was romantic and sexual, in others the insect kingdom intruded.

Finally, as in all things philosophic, the religious made its appearance—with the bizarre sensual sadism that is part-and-parcel of Western ideology, followed by references to an as-yet-unnamed theology that owes something to Hinduism, and something to the hope that each of us can recognize the light within each other.

Gates after Rodin © Harold Davis

Related story: You can read more about my Gates after Rodin image in A Rorschach for MFAs, and how I began doing these images here. For more stories and images, check out the Multiple Exposures category on this blog.

Also posted in Models, Multiple Exposures

Getting Inside My Head

Well, I’m not exactly John Malkovitch, but I am pleased and excited to see this attempt to “Get inside the head of this marvelous man whose writing is as evocative as his art (and find out what he eats for breakfast!)” on the Mid Century Books blog. The “marvelous man” would be me…not Malkovitch, LOL. Thanks Mid Century Books, truly appreciated. Stay tuned for a podcast interview with the editor at Mid Century Books.

Villandry © Harold Davis


Harold Davis: Talks at Google

Here’s the recording of my recent interview and talk at Google regarding The Photographer’s Black & White Handbook and the Zen of Photography!

If the embedded video doesn’t display, please click here to view it on YouTube.

Martin Then and Now

This is a photo of my wonderful father Martin Davis that I recently scanned and retouched to restore some damage. Martin thinks it was taken when he was sixteen and had just graduated from the Bronx High School of Science.

Martin Davis.b

That was then, and this is now: although you can see that Martin’s spirit remains strong and shines through. Recently we had my parents over to celebrate Martin’s 89th birthday. In the iPhone capture below, he has just opened a gag birthday gift that my son Nicholas picked out (Nicky has a wicked sense of humor!).

Martins 89 Birthday

Also posted in Photography

Wedding Day

This is a photo of my darling Phyllis and myself on our wedding day almost 25 years ago. The color print (an inexpensive drugstore print made from color negative film I think) was starting to fade, so we scanned it to preserve it. Phyllis and I walked to St Michael’s Church from our apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I remember crossing Broadway with a little old lady cackling and waving a cane and shouting to Phyllis, “Kiss him, you fool!”


We’ve come along way since that day. Across the country, and four kids later, marrying Phyllis was the best thing I’ve ever done. It hasn’t all been a bed of roses. We’ve weathered kids in intensive care, illnesses, battles with the school district, and financial pressures. But every day and in every way our relationship has grown richer, and I love Phyllis even more (if that is possible) than the day we married.

My Grandparents: Harry and Helen Davis

These are portraits of my paternal grandparents. Harry Davis was born Herschel Davidowitz in 1892. Helen Davis, nee Gotlieb, born in 1895, and Harry were both from Lodz, Poland. They met in New York, and were married in 1925.

Harry Davis (born Hershel Davidowitz); Photographer Unknown

Harry Davis (born Hershel Davidowitz); Photographer and Date Unknown

The images are flatbed scans of sepia tinted photos that have suffered some damage over the years. The photographer and date of the sitting(s) are unknown. Clearly, these portraits marked some kind of formal or special occasion, as the subjects are dressed up and looking their best. This is not the kind of studio portrait that would have happened every day.

Helen (nee Gotlieb) Davis; Photographer and Date Unknown

Helen (nee Gotlieb) Davis; Photographer and Date Unknown

I never knew my grandfather Harry Davis as he died in 1947 before I was born. However, in his absence, he was a figure who has loomed fairly large in my life, since he was an artist, and I was named after him.

My grandma Helen on the other hand was a beloved if somewhat peculiar presence in my early years. I believe that English was her fourth language (after Yiddish, Polish, and German). This led to an idiosyncrasy of language that was particularly noticeable in her essentially incomprehensible written communications. Her vast love for her family was immediately and always apparent, and I loved her a great deal.

My father adds some biographical details:

Harry and Helen knew one another slightly in Lodz. She came to borrow books at an informal lending library that he and his friends had established in Lodz. His friend Felix Kornberg was married to her sister Regina. Harry reconnected with Helen at the Bronx apartment of Bessie, another sister.

Harry had been taken as a forced laborer to Germany during World War I. After the war he and his brothers established a furniture manufacturing business in Leipzig, Germany. So he came to New York City from Germany.

Helen really didn’t know German. For her, speaking German was just speaking Yiddish with a different accent, especially a very soft “l”.

Black & White Book is Shipping

My new book The Photographer’s Black & White Handbook: Making and Processing Stunning Digital Black and White Photos is now available and shipping from Amazon and other book stores. Very exciting!


Becoming a more interesting person: the genesis of Harold Davis

Want to know more about me and what makes me tick than you may ever have wanted to know? Check out Behind the Lens with Harold Davis.

Panorama of the Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po © Harold Davis

Panorama of the Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po © Harold Davis

My work in part defines me, and who I am defines, energizes, and bounds my work, and gives my art the power that it has. To fully understand my art and the man behind the lens, one needs to understand the unique path I’ve taken—which is definitely a “Road Less Traveled”—and learn a bit more about who I am.


Road Less Traveled by Harold Davis

Road Less Traveled © Harold Davis

This is a long and fairly detailed memoir, starting with I Was Born and All That, continuing through Photography 1.0 and my Technology Interregnum,  and leading inevitably and relentlessly like a rough, slouching beast to Post-Photography Photography and a syncretic synthesis.


Harold Davis: Self portrait with moustache

Self Portrait with Moustache © Harold Davis

Check out Behind the Lens with Harold Davis.