Steve Davis

As American Falls
Location: Olympia, Seattle, Washington State
Nationality: USA
Biography: Steve Davis is a documentary portrait and landscape photographer based in the Pacific Northwest.  His work has appeared in American Photo, Harper's, the New York Times Magazine, Russian Esquire, and is in many collections, including the... read on
Public Story
As American Falls

American Falls is a small town southern Idaho named after a real waterfall called American Falls, on the Snake River, that was long ago destroyed by a dam. Now the town is dying. This is where Seattle photographer Steve Davis grew up. American Falls happens to be named perfectly for this global moment. The town is, no kidding, the seat of Power County. It also happens to be, according to Wikipedia, the first American town to be entirely relocated, in 1925, to create the dam. Davis’s photographs cover a wide range of approaches to documentation, even self-consciously so. The crisp right-hand half of Davis’s photograph of a man sitting alone at a bar with his beer and cigarette could be a stock image in any hard-luck series. But on the left-hand half of the picture, the image dissipates into pure light and reflection, sliding into soft oblivion, or escape. The obdurate brick surface of the bar is seen in another picture, a deadpan portrait of its exterior under a gray sky. The titles of the pictures are divided into types: fields, landscapes, people’s names, nouns. Field #2 and Field #3 are a nice pair; #2 is an idyllic shot of a green field bursting with tiny white flowers (the famous Idaho potatoes) under a blue sky; #3 is a dose of artifice that’s more real. What looks like plain old grass reflects an almost neon sheen as a stream of fertilizer falls on it, the stream stretching across the top of the picture like a coal-dust rainbow. The scale is unsettlingly unclear, as in Landscape #13, a picture of toy trucks in a tilted sandbox that, because of the angle, look about to drive onto the real highway above them. An old woman and a young man wait for a parade—we see only their backs and the empty street. Two horses lean into the picture frame, a row of electrical towers standing between them—their replacements. High-school cheerleaders perform overly enthusiastically in front of an anti-drug mural of a snarling dog (“he only bites…meth consumes!”). A karaoke stage waiting for a singer is backed by American flags, as if singing in someone else’s voice were the national art form. And Davis gives formal, not just narrative, gifts: The prom court is a blur of colors beneath a crystal-clear moon. An illuminated cross is starting its shift, taking over from the sun, casting an impossibly beautiful blue light on a desolate spot where a silver light jumps back from the windows of lonely houses. Davis’s version of American Falls is not anytown, but in many ways it might also be the place you left, or are thinking about leaving, and you might recognize it. There’s a man sitting at a desk in front of an imposing safe, but the safe door is just flung open and he sort of stares off. He’s the mayor.

-Jen Graves, The 


Also by Steve Davis —


Chambers of Commerce

By Steve Davis / Bay Area, California

Portraits From The Union Gospel Mission

By Steve Davis — These images are of staff, volunteers, and the homeless you receive a warm meal, clothing, and a hot shower..

Back To The Garden

By Steve Davis / Olympia, Washington — This work represents people who self-identify  as 21st century hippies.  This was my sole..

House Arrest: Pandemic Style

By Steve Davis — As I stay at home under pandemic coronavirus_19 conditions, I, like so many, spend a lot of time walking my..

The Rainier School

By Steve Davis / buckley, washington — The Rainier School is a state operated institution for the developmentally disabled, not far from Seattle at..

Captured Youth

By Steve Davis / Washington — Since 1997 I've been photographing incarcerated teens in Washington State.  They live in state and..

Appearing As Regular People

By Steve Davis / Washington Correction Center, Shelton, Washington — Prison Inmates Appearing As Regular People.   These photographs represent inmates from two corrections..

Northwest Passage

By Steve Davis / Idaho, Washington, Oregon — 1970s and 1980s work about living in the Pacific Northwest.

The Western Lands

By Steve Davis / Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Nevada, Idaho — These are recent additions to the ongoing project The Western Lands . Statement: Beauty can lurk in strange..
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