Lifestyle photographer John Davis has established cross-country connections with educational institutions and organizations of all kinds. When he first began his career working and living in the Baltimore and DC metro area, he discovered many opportunities to use his photography to support several nonprofit organizations. This work was essential in building a foundation of empathy from which John can connect with individuals at any stage of life.
I’ve worked in the education and nonprofit world for most of my career, so my experience with “real” people is reflected in my work.
After two decades of photographing people for all kinds of companies, John’s list of clients continues to grow — and many of these clients have become repeat collaborators. One of these is AmeriCorps, a national organization that seeks to unite people through volunteering and acts of service.
I’ve worked with AmeriCorps for over ten years. The client and I clicked so they’ve just continued calling when they need photography.
John’s previous work with AmeriCorps has taken him all across the country to document the integral work of these volunteers at some of the most pivotal moments of recent American history.
Over the years, we’ve captured volunteers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, forest management in Colorado, building with Habitat for Humanity in San Francisco, and planting community gardens in the lower-income communities of Baltimore.
For their most recent project, John traveled to Minneapolis, MN to take portraits of AmeriCorps volunteers for the organization’s “What’s At Your Core” campaign. Not only did John find himself traveling amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, but he also flew into the city during the nationally broadcasted trial of Derek Chauvin.
The Derek Chauvin trial was about to begin, so the National Guard was all over Minneapolis. Going downtown was nearly impossible and there was a tenseness in the air.
While the atmosphere was initially uneasy, John’s energy and experience helped the subjects feel more comfortable during the shoot. His previous work for AmeriCorps was typically centered on showcasing volunteers at work but for this project, the client wanted staged portraits that would reflect the subject’s testimonies. John worked with each volunteer to craft a visual story that would express their commitment to serving with AmeriCorps.
John shared his time slot for each subject with a videography crew, which required him to work as efficiently as possible in his time connecting with each volunteer. Luckily, his experience working alongside AmeriCorps volunteers in moments of urgency enabled him to work within these parameters.
We were working alongside a video crew, which made it a little tricky. There were a few timing issues with the volunteers, but nothing we didn’t figure out as the shoot progressed.
This arrangement required some maneuvering, but John’s commitment to working together led to a greater collaboration between all involved.
Honestly, the video crew was great. We did the location scout together the day before so we were able to discuss workflow and get to know each other a bit over lunch.
In his previous assignments for AmeriCorps, John found himself an integral observer of the work that their volunteers accomplish. This project was a change from his documentarian role, and John met the challenge by connecting with each subject to elicit smiles and reactions that would parallel their personal testimonies and express their passion for giving back.
We came away with some great images that the agency and client were extremely happy with.