Coagula Art Journal
Issue #70 October , 2004


Davis: Which Davis are you?

Davis: The other Davis.

Davis: And why do we go by the name Davis & Davis? It sounds like a law firm.

Davis: It's both symmetrical and catchy.

Davis: But isn't it also anonymous and depersonalized?

Davis: And that’s a bad thing?

Davis: But what are we actually: a law firm, a brother-sister act, two generations of tax accountants, an air conditioner service company?

Davis: I hope we don't disappoint anyone who thought we were an air conditioner service company, but we're actually two generations of tax accountants.

Davis: If you wanted to name a funny profession, you should have said fine art photographers. F-words are funny.

Davis: Fthanks.

Davis: Should I plug the book now?

Davis: Go ahead.

Davis: Okay. What’s this I hear about a book?

Davis: People (read: gallerists) have been telling us for some time now that we should have a book. And now we do. It’s called Childish Things and it’s packed with photographs from our Childish Things series. It’s fun, it’s edgy, it’s hip and makes a great gift.

Davis: How big is it?

Davis: 8 by 10. 64 photographs on 96 pages.

Davis: Hardcover?

Davis: No. It’s paperback, but beautifully printed and highly affordable.

Davis: So, we published it ourselves?

Davis: No. It’s published by Santa Monica Press.

Davis: And how much did we pay them?

Davis: We didn’t.

Davis: That’s incredible! So, tell me, was it difficult finding a publisher?

Davis: We showed the book to maybe a half dozen publishers and had just started scrapbooking our rejection slips, when our friend Ted showed it to his publisher…

Davis: That would be Santa Monica Press?

Davis: Check.

Davis: And we didn’t pay them anything?

Davis: Check.

Davis: We must be pretty excited about this.

Davis: Like a little girl.

Davis: So, what is this Childish Things series about?

Davis: Childish Things is staged photographs of lost and abandoned toys reenacting various childhood traumas and forbidden games.

Davis: Are we talking about our own childhood traumas and forbidden games?

Davis: No, we are talking about the former toy owners’ childhood traumas and forbidden games, information about which we extract from the toys, and which is then filtered though our own memories and experiences on its way to becoming photographs.

Davis: You’re kidding.

Davis: Here’s an example: We found a funny-looking doll at a thrift shop with shoes and hair, but no clothes. Who knows why, but we got a strong allergy vibe off this doll. Now it just happens that when I was a kid, I got a dose of penicillin for a strep throat. An hour later I began to feel itchy, so I went to the mirror, pulled up my pajamas and saw to my horror I was covered with bright red spots. That’s how we came up with "Dottie."

Davis: A penicillin allergy is quite dangerous, no?

Davis: Let’s just say moldy bread is the bane of my existence. But enough about me. Is there anything from your personal experience that has made it into Childish Things?

Davis: We found a strange, little doll at a local swap meet. Her mouth was wide open and her hands were all tweaked. She really looked ill, and it reminded me of the time I found my 2-year-old sister down in the basement pouring bleach into little teacups. She was having a tea party for her imaginary friends. I asked her if she had drunk the bleach and she said yes. Anyway, we made a miniature bleach jug to pose this doll with and put a little spilled cup on the floor and that was "Bleach Baby."

Davis: But what happened to your sister?

Davis: Oh, they pumped her stomach. They didn't find anything.

Davis: Speaking of stomach pumping, why don't we ever photograph Barbie?

Davis: Three reasons. First, Barbies have a limited range of facial expressions. Second, Barbies are too grownup-looking for this series. Third, Mattel has a tendency to sue anyone who makes unauthorized Barbie art. (They always lose in court, but who needs the hassle?)

Davis: Fourth, Barbies carry too much cultural baggage, and fifth, Levinthal did a whole book of Barbies.

Davis: And they were very tastefully done.

Davis: Where do we find our toys?

Davis: At first, we found all of our toys in the neighborhood where we lived in Van Nuys. There was a grade school on our street and kids would drop their toys on the ground on the way to school. We would walk our dogs at nine a.m., pick up the toys we found and put them in a bag. Then one day, a neighbor lady asked what was in the bag. The next day we found no toys. The next week,  same, no toys. Then one day, we went out really early and saw the neighbor lady walking around with a bag. It turns out she was going out before us every day - and, like a packrat, was stuffing her house with boxes and boxes of lost toys. After that we had to resort to thrift stores and swap meets.

Davis: We later photographed a doll with a huge mouth and named it after this lady: "Big Mary, Little Mary."

Davis: That’s harsh.

Davis: Do we still spend a lot of time looking for toys?

Davis: We go out a couple of times a month specifically to look for toys, and we also find toys while walking around our new neighborhood, especially near the orphanage.

Davis: Do we own a lot of toys and what do we do with the toys when we’re done with them?

Davis: We fill up boxes and boxes with lost toys and stuff our house with them.

Davis: What kind of camera do we use?

Davis: We use a Mamiya RB67, which makes a 2 1/4 by 2 3/4 negative.

Davis: Do we alter the toys we shoot in any way, like clean them up?

Davis: No, except for the dots on "Dottie." We added those.

Davis: Do we use Photoshop or any other digital imaging software in making these photographs?

Davis: What is this photoshop?

Davis: Do we divide the work into styling and photography, or do we collaborate on every element?

Davis: We both look through the camera, if that's what you're asking.

Davis: Do we print our own work?

Davis: Except in an emergency.

Davis: How did we meet?

Davis: In a photography class at a community college in the valley. I had just finished my undergraduate degree and was taking the class so I could have darkroom access.

Davis: I was there to meet chicks.

Davis: When did we start collaborating?

Davis: We first worked together for a Hiroshima show at LACPS in 1985, but didn’t become Davis & Davis until 1991 when we started our Modern Romance series, which is photos of us in impossibly romantic situations.

Davis: Did I read somewhere that we used to be fashion photographers?

Davis: You may have read it, but it ain’t necessarily so. At one time, before Modern Romance, we did some test shoots of aspiring models. We learned a lot about lighting and exposure, but mainly we learned that one of us can’t be trusted around aspiring models.

Davis: What are we working on now?

Davis: Lately we’ve been busy with our latest toy series called Small Talents, which is photographs of untalented toys doing their acts, some of which are pretty minimal like drinking beer in your bathrobe.

Davis: Do we do anything besides toy photos?

Davis: We also do videos, drawings, sculptures and installations dealing with such fringe sciences as ufology, parapsychology and sexology.

Davis: You weirdo!

Davis: When is our next show?

Davis: We’ll have a show of Childish Things and Small Talents and a book signing on October 16th at the Heather Marx Gallery in San Francisco.

Davis: Anything local?

Davis: We’ll have a show of Modern Romance, and a book signing on October 9th at Revisited in Chinatown (Los Angeles).

Davis: How important is it that people buy our book?

Davis: Let’s put it this way, if everyone buys it, chances are much better that there’ll be a second book.

Davis: Do we have a website where the curious can see what Childish Things looks like?

Davis: Yes, it’s
Davis: How important is it nowadays for an artist to have a website?

Davis: Very. Collectors, curators and critics often visit out of the blue. For example, thanks solely to our website, we appeared on a Belgian television show last year. Maybe you’ve heard of it: "Salmon for Corleone"?

Davis: Really? Was there any pay?

Davis: They paid us in waffles. And say what you will about the Belgians, they know their waffles!

Davis: One last question: any advice for artists out there who want to get their own books published?

Davis: Well, first you have to sleep with Ted…