Mike Davis asks for international submissions for "Family. Life." project

By Emily Kulkus

August 20, 2014

Newhouse students will assemble and help publish the collaborative work

Newhouse professor Mike Davis has always been a dreamer. How cool would it be, he thought, to engage a photographer in each of the 50 states to produce a body of work under a common theme? Very cool, indeed.

“I’ve had ideas like this in the past but I was never in a position to pull them off,” Davis says.

Until now.

As the Alexia Tsairis Chair for Documentary Photography at the Newhouse School, Davis is working to make some of those dreams a reality. Up first is a project called “Family. Life.” which encourages students around the world to create photos, videos or art about a common theme: family.

“Family is the core of every aspect of life on the planet. It’s a universal theme, but also one with great variability,” says Davis. “Through the prism of family, you can see what distinguishes us and what unifies us.”

Davis says he’s excited to see how different participants interpret the project. He knows that the fine art students in Belfast will produce something entirely different from high school students in Armenia and college students in Australia.

“Family. Life.” is a unique approach to creating a common creative project from all corners of the globe, Davis says.

“It’s just nice to help elevate Newhouse’s voice internationally and produce a compelling body of work,” he says.

Davis has been using his photography and educational networks to spread the word about “Family. Life.” to schools, universities and educators around the world. Schools that have agreed to participate include: UNC-Chapel Hill, Western Kentucky University, Columbia University, the University of Missouri and Ohio University as well as universities in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Korea, Armenia, Norway, Ireland, England, South Africa and Chile. PhotoShelter, Photo District News and the American Society of Media Photographers are sponsors.

Davis will rely on contributing teachers to select the best work, which will be combined to create a website and ebook. Davis will assemble a publishing team of Newhouse students to work with the submissions and document the experience.

Deadline for submissions is early to mid December and the publishing team will start creating a collaborative product in the spring.

Davis expects the publishing process and the finished product to be a fascinating experience for all those involved.

“Family is the core of life,” he says. “It is a universal aspect of how we all start. So by looking at something that is universal, we see what is constant, what is true to all and what is unique to each.”

If you are interested in participating in “Family. Life.”, contact Mike Davis at mdavis@syr.edu or Andrea Wise at alwise@syr.edu for more information.

Emily Kulkus '02 is the web content manager at the Newhouse School. Contact her at eakulkus@syr.edu.


Above: A photo by Newhouse graduate student Taylor Baucom explores the family life of Gena Buza, a 16-year-old from Central New York who was left paralyzed after a car accident when she was 6. The "Family. Life." project will illustrate the idea of family around the world.