Bob Devin Jones on Photojournalist Griffith J. Davis

March 1, 2021 | By Bob Devin Jones

See Here

Works by Griffith J. Davis at the USF Contemporary Art Museum

Through March 6
Details here
Virtual Exhibition here

Griffith J. Davis – Griff Davis reviews the script for Liberia’s first promotional film “Pepperbird Land” with its narrator, emerging actor Sidney Poitier in Monrovia, Liberia, 1952. Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives.

. . .
It is accurate to say that a picture is worth a thousand words
however, there is always an antecedent to any picture
and that time “before” is often worth at least 10 thousand… words… deeds 

a snap shot captures the ignorant present (that oh so precise moment when the image
was taken)
then history has its sway, about what else may have been going on
which, quicker than an instant, becomes a chronicle of… the time before which leads up
to the past and sets the stage for the future… got that?

the photographer only hints (sly or deliberate reference to what may come to be)
the very best photographs navigate the past, the present, and the delicious hush of
what is to come

The compelling “in the moment” exhibition of STILL HERE: The Griffith J.
Davis Photographs and Archives in Context
at the USF Contemporary Art Museum
has multiple moments of the past the present and the future colliding in an often
prescient stew of possibilities
. . .

Griffith J. Davis – Ghanaian flag going up for first time as part of Ghana’s Independence Celebration, March 6, 1957. Courtesy of Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives

. . .
One small (12 by 9 inches) photograph depicts “Independence Day in Ghana, 1957”
devoid of colonial European babble, there is in the picture… a promise
the hard promise of a new nation of reunion, reparation and liberation… the difficult

all in the simple of depiction of a photograph of a new nation’s new flag, fluttering in the
almost audible breeze
well, my eyes begin to sweat…
this is the moment where the photograph catches its breath
and the viewer loses his
as the tears begin to form, I move to the other side of the exhibition
but I come back to the very small snap of the Ghanian flag
and I am transported
back to these United Shores of America BLM
Black Liberation Matters… eventually… all over Africa, the Americas and most of the

Davis traveled the world focusing his camera lens and his passions from Washington
DC… “Thurgood Marshall, Chief Legal Counsel for the NAACP 1948,” two decades
before he became the first African American Supreme Court Justice.
. . .

Griffith J. Davis – Thurgood Marshall defends Ada Lois Sipuel vs. University of Oklahoma Law School, 1948. Courtesy of Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives

. . .
First meeting of Vice President Richard Nixon and Martin Luther King 1957,” seven
years before he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize,” just over a decade later King
would be assassinated and a few years later, Nixon would resign the US presidency
waist deep in Watergate disgrace.

to  “Emperor Haile Selassie feeding the ducks at the Imperial Palace Ethiopia 1950,
before his eventual overthrow…

The Davis exhibit is fulsome and an amazing chronicle of the tumult, grace, and indeed political poetry and splendid photojournalism of the 20th Century.

President Eisenhower
Lena Horne
. . .

Griffith J. Davis – Lena Horne, ca. 1949-1950. Courtesy of Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives

Eleanor Roosevelt
. . .

Griffith J. Davis – Eleanor Roosevelt, ca. 1950. Courtesy of Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives

Duke Ellington
Julian Bond
. . .

Griffith J. Davis – Julian Bond, 1986. Courtesy of Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives

Langston Hughes
. . .

Griffith J. Davis – Langston Hughes, 1947. Courtesy of Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives


are just a few of the luminaries captured by Griffith J. Davis in the exhibition. There are
also several books, magazines covers and other art works which Davis photographed or
collected – and contemporary works displayed beside his own –
that give a clue as to the force behind the majesty of his work.

A powerful large print of Jacob Lawrence, “Revolt on the Amistad 1989
. . .

Jacob Lawrence – Revolt on the Amistad, 1989. © 2020 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


a similar memorable collage by Romare Bearden, “Reunion 1971

and a poster by Emory Douglas, “Only on the Bones of the Oppressors can the Peoples Freedom Be Founded 1969

. . .

Emory Douglas – Only on the Bones of the Oppressors can the People’s Freedom Be Founded…, 1969. © 2020 Emory Douglas /Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

. . .
indicate that many a morning, Griffith J. Davis must have, as in the lyrics of the Gospel/Spiritual/Protest song, “Woke up this Morning, with my Mind Stayed on Freedom!

. . .

Find out more about Griffith J. Davis’ photography here

View the Virtual Exhibition

Download the Study Guide

Listen to Where Do We Go From Here:
A Personal Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. by Griffith J. Davis here

Deana Lawson American, born 1979. Binky & Tony Forever, 2009. Pigmented inkjet print (Archival inkjet print), 37 × 43 1/4 in. (94 × 109.9 cm) Museum purchase, 2019, SN11654. Collection of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the State Art Museum of Florida, Florida State University, Sarasota.



Davis’ multi-media works are displayed in context with thematically complementary contemporary artworks by artists Romare Bearden, Emory Douglas, Jacob A. Lawrence, Deana Lawson, Zanele Muholi, and Hank Willis Thomas.

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. . .
Opening celebration for Still Here: The Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives in Context with exhibition curators Dorothy M. Davis, President of Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives; Christian Viveros-Fauné, CAM Curator at Large; and Noel Smith, CAM Deputy Director and Curator of Latin American and Caribbean Art.
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