Photographer / collage artist working with American stories across the past, present and futureMessage
A native of Sweden, Kris Davidson spent the first half of her childhood in the Scandinavian subarctic and the second half in Texas. After 15 years as an editorial photographer, Kris is now a full-time lens-based artist. With an immigrant gaze, she considers the American experience, focusing on storytelling across the past, present, and future. She uses collage and mixed media on photographic prints to explore storytelling and memory across deep time.
Kris’s photography has been published in National Geographic, Lonely Planet Traveler, and many others. Before becoming a photographer, Kris worked as a branding professional for eight years in the San Francisco Bay area. Kris is also an educator, having worked with National Geographic Society and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
Kris has a BA from Loyola University in New Orleans. She is based near Seattle, Washington.
If I were to distill my creative life down to a single word, it would be translation. My longest-running act of translation began at age nine, when my family left the snow-covered Swedish subarctic for Texas. As we stepped off the plane in Dallas, everything shifted: the air was heavy and warm, the sky was larger, a necessity for a brighter, more demanding sun. Everything we had known had to be translated to fit this new place: our language, our food, our clothes, the stories we had carried with us. I have spent years crisscrossing the shifting chasm known to all immigrants. I understand that in all acts of translation, new meanings are forged, just as others are lost.
In my work, I am primarily concerned with how American stories are translated across time. America’s storytelling tradition is expansive, born out of countless colliding, merging, and overlapping storylines. In my ongoing writing and photography project, Beneath A Paper Moon, I have been excavating vestiges of various tall tales, myths, and legends throughout the United States. It has been a non-linear journey of revisiting difficult events that have been shrouded in anesthetizing fictions. In Georgia, I found traces of the Flying Africans, a myth about would-be slaves growing magnificent black wings and flying away — it is a myth tied to a real slave uprising on St. Simons island that ended in a mass drowning. I searched the Louisiana wetlands for the Rougarou, a swamp monster born out of the convergences of desire, shame, and a legacy of colonialism. Beneath UFO kitsch in Roswell, New Mexico, I found still raw memories of the unexpected detonation of the world’s first nuclear bomb in the nearby desert. These memories accompany a lingering conviction that the (allegedly) crashed aliens had come out of concern for our devastating new nuclear technology. Finally, reaching deep into the past, I have walked upon the red earth of Navajo Nation with a Diné storyteller, listening to her tell ancient origin stories that have been shared on this land for thousands of years, long before it came to be called America.
Stories are the pillars of the self, showing us who have been, who we are now, and who we are becoming — and yet, stories are intangible as they slide across time, shapeshifting between fact and fiction. My work in investigating the lifecycles of American stories across the past, present, and future has pulled me towards the dizzying specter of deep time as I attempt to gaze thousands of years into both the past and future. Scientists have not yet reached a consensus on what time is — some, like Einstein and Hawking, have suggested that all time already exists, that we might be caught in an infinite instant that already includes our future. I have turned to collaging photographs — slicing and reorganizing slivers of frozen time — to explore how our stories might exist indefinitely across deep time.
At this time, I am developing work that looks at American stories being crafted today about the future. In spring of 2023, I am joining an analog Mars mission as a crew journalist/photographer at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, a project spearheaded by The Mars Society. In this capacity, I will be working in a spacesuit alongside scientists — all of us engaged in two full weeks of simulation/performance, imagining a future on Mars. Also, in late spring of 2023, I will begin working with an animatronic robot, addressing storytelling around emerging robotics technology, AI, genetic engineering, human/machine merge (and other hominid splits in history).
More to come. Thank you for reading.