Dreams are a powerful element in our creative lives. Through them our unconscious speaks, if we are ready to listen. Dreams may contain symbolic elements, mythological scenes and ambiguous images. Dreams may also bring valuable information for decisions we have to make or paths we have to take. They are representing a resource not only drawing from our memories, but also pointing to the unknown realm which is our future.
The history of art is loaded with images relating to dreams, entire landscapes of our souls have become works of art. The history of photography is part of this and the camera clearly a wonderful tool to explore our dreams. Art is also a way of reflecting life and it can be a way of reflecting the meanings of dreams – or: of continuing to dream them further, going beyong the moment when we woke up in the middle of the dream.
Lei Davis seems to have adopted elements from that scenario between dreams and photography for her personal quest in at least two aspects: One is actively searching for her own very personal path with photography and doing this by taking pictures. The other is making inner landscapes and inner rooms of dreams accessible through photography. By this she is learning how to share with others, what cannot be expressed with words, but with the photographic image.
The 16 photographs in the portfolio seem to reflect where about she may be in this dual process of clarification. Finding her path through workshops with hi-profile photographers gives the impression of being for her a valuable mode of learning, since she takes inspiration, but remains autonomous. Still, an even more self confident autonomy will show as she is making further progress. There clearly is enough substance in her photography to shape a highly personal, authentic "handwriting."
While most of the photographs are non-descriptive in a refreshing way, some of them immediately come to mind because of their "open" character – "open" in the sense of Umberto Eco's "Opera aperta" ("Open Text"), which allows multiple or mediated interpretations by the readers. They inspire in the onlooker a flow of thoughts, images, and feelings. They give us the impression of conveying scenes from the photographer's dreams, while immersing us in our own dreamscapes. In them a component of the mysterious and sometimes a hint of the symbolic come into play. Most strongly the images numbers 1, 2, 5, 7, 13 and 14 fall into that group.
However those images mentioned do not yet form a series, if that is what should be desired. A single image may impress on its own and also tell a kind of story in itself. If the goal is to create a – however vague and mysterious –narrative, a more consistent series would be required. Again not a series of descriptive images, but a flow of inner images like a sequence of rooms we are passing through in a dream. They may stem from different locations and have been photographed on different days, but they will find together in an editing process that is open to the dreamlike quality of the photographic approach.
For photographs to work well in a series of such an open kind of form there is certainly more freedom in terms of style than there would be with a strictly conceptual series. Still, certain formal aspects of the photographs should well speak to each other and contribute to the whole. So aspects of a certain kind of composition – as for instance found in images 1, 5 and 7 – may go well togther. Also images 2, 4 and 13 may enter an interesting conversation. While the image may certainly well be blurry, grainy or out of focus, a certain strigency in composition and the balances of light and darkness seem important. You may call this a kind of "clarity" that can well be found within an image that is mysterious and dark.
It may be a point of discussion if aspects of technical perfection – like with image 7 – work well with images where this kind of perfection is not in the foreground. I would hold doubts about this unless there is a strong conceptual reason for working with this opposition of different visualities. Just mixing them in the same series does not seem to be recommendable.
Interesting enough the work with the human figure or the human face in this kind of photography turns out more difficult that maybe initially expected. The danger of entering too descriptive photography or simply portraiture is maybe too imminent. So some more exploration in this aspect may be helpful.
When putting together a portfolio there is a clear recommendation: Select only the strongest and most outstanding images, integrating weaker images will weaken the entire series. So: Be hard on yourself when editing. And: Look for consistency in a series and avoid a simple "best-of" mixture of images. Do not try to show "what all" you can do, but show what you do "best."
So in both aspects of the dream and photography scenario there is strong reason for Lei Davis to continue on her path: Further clarifying the personal handwriting in photography which starts to show its contours and diving ever deeper in this personal dreamlike terrain of photography, since it contains strengh and promise.