Alisha Davis, like so many of her digital generation, is a self-taught photographer. She didn’t study the subject in school, had no mentors, and her teachers at Central High never knew she was interested in photography. CreativeLive courses, contacts, and workshops made up the UNO grad’s education on the subject. Her devotion to the subject is personal, illuminating the faces of her neighbors.
“I learned valuable business information online,” Davis says. “But the people are my inspiration, and I have the privilege of meeting them each and every day.”
Davis is currently working on a project called “Building Our Legacy in Love & Light,” encouraged in part by the Thomas Allen Harris documentary Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People. “I love it,” Davis says of the film that tells the story of how images have affected the lives of black Americans. “Everyone should watch it.”
Her objective is to capture and present as public works of art “strong, positive images of black Americans” in places where everyone can see them. “I wanted to create images that capture not only people’s eyes, but their minds too. I wanted stories to be told. African-Americans are consistently misrepresented in the media,” Davis says. “This propagates a sense of fear around the image of black people. It sets the tone for the stereotypes associated with African-Americans and gives way to judging a person’s character by their physical appearance.”
The photos in “Building Our Legacy” show images from the daily lives of African-Americans in Omaha rather than images that reinforce misleading stereotypes. “The exhibit features a total of 12 images, six of which were chosen by project supporters at the December release party to be transformed into murals around Omaha during the spring,” she says.
Davis is working with noted Omaha muralist Reggie LeFlore to transform her photographic moments into murals for everyone. “It’s great,” Davis says of her work with LeFlore. “We’re both passionate artists who feel compelled to use our gifts to help the community we care about. It’s about bringing people together, sharing positive energy, and igniting power within those who feel powerless. You become what you are surrounded with.”
Images create a constructed reality in the minds of the viewer regardless of their accuracy.
“If you spend a majority of your time surrounded by controlled media images, what they create becomes normal to you,” she says. “If you spend a majority of your time tuning into the life around you, you can paint your own picture and decide for yourself what is normal and acceptable. The change that can come from that is unbelievable, but not impossible.”
Davis comes from a family of artists, poets, and musicians. Her grandmother chronicled memories that stayed with Davis, energizing her mission to become “the eye behind the lens.”
“I’ve always been fascinated by cameras and photographs,” says Davis, whose current “weapon of choice” is a Canon Rebel XS. “Taking pictures to capture memories was something my grandma was passionate about. She never practiced it as a profession, but it was an important element at all of our family gatherings. I used to love looking back at all of the photos she had collected over the years, reliving the moments, even if I hadn’t been there to live them. It was like therapy for me. Those photos were the pages in a book, and I was reading the story.”
Visit facebook.com/daviegrams for more information.