Greg Davis calls them “God winks”: Little connections in life that are too significant to be brushed off as mere coincidences.
Davis quit his corporate job to chase these “God winks” on a year-long photography journey around the world and has gone from selling his prints out of a chicken coop to being a professional photographer for National Geographic.
In 2004, after working in Austin for nine years in technology marketing at Dell, COMPACT Technologies and Hewlett-Packard, Davis reached a low point in his life.
“I was 35 years old, I was in technology and I just knew that it wasn’t for me,” Davis said. “Something was missing. My dad died. I had seven family members die in eight years. [I was] attacked by a gang. A lot of stuff hit me all at once and broke me down pretty good.”
Determined to clear his head and take some time for himself, Davis decided to sell all of his belongings and travel around the world for one year. Equipped with a $400 point-and-shoot camera and no formal photography training, he traveled to Turkey, India, Thailand, Australia and several other countries.
A picture Davis took capturing the color-stained hands of a woman in Vietnam sparked his pursuit of a career in photography. In May 2010, National Geographic contacted him to establish a contract, and he is currently an active National Geographic creative photographer, one of 226 photographers worldwide selected to create a database of photos that the magazine can use or sell to print media, websites or branding campaigns.
“I think one thing that you see in Greg’s work that you don’t see in a lot of other people’s is that he has the ability to capture the genuine spirit of humankind worldwide,” said Sarah Patton, who works in business representation for photographers. “You see glimpses into what a day in their life might be like. I think that touches people and it’s interesting. There’s an enormous amount of color [and] a robustness. It kind of draws you into the photos.”
Davis returned to India in February to document the world’s largest spiritual pilgrimage, Kumbh Mela, through photographs and film. The pictures and footage from the 18 days he spent living in a tent and witnessing millions of people flocking to the sacred grounds will be displayed in Midland, Texas at the Museum of the Southwest in November.
Davis is also working on a book that will depict a photographic journey of hands around the world, a common motif in his work. His work now is almost enitrely focused on portraits.
“He’s open to the unexpected,” Davis’ studio partner Bill Stidham said. “He captures life and emotions and the soul of people.”
Davis has displayed his work in the vendor section of the Austin City Limits Music Festival for the past seven years. Roughly 6,000 people stopping by Davis’s booth each day and his work has been purchased by people from the U.S., Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada and Sweden.
“People come by and I think [they are] drawn to that thing that I’m capturing, that spirituality, that connectedness that you see in my work,” Davis said. “If somebody gets it, and they resonate with it, and they walk away with the feeling they’ve either learned something or been inspired, they don’t need to give me money. I get equally the amount of satisfaction out of someone on a deep level appreciating what I do.”