In the roughly 20 years that I have called on Mike to help with my endeavors I have come to know him as a consummate editor who is among the best in the country. His voice at the table elevates whatever the project to its greatest potential. I have found him to be indispensable.
CEO, Against All Odds Productions
Mike Davis has a preternatural understanding of not only which pictures work, but why they do. His is a qualitative assessment that pushes photographers to tell whole stories in images. Every situation presents an opportunity to convey more than simply what is happening. There is a richer and more sophisticated life possible in every picture, and Mike helps photographers recognize those elements. I've seen edits of his that seem impossible to disassemble. He has a singular skill for weaving narrative through pictures which I am constantly astounded by.
photojournalist, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Virginia
It is impossible to put into words how fulfilling it is to work with Mike Davis. Editing with Mike may be uncomfortable at times. He gets to the guts of how you are capturing the world in front of your lens and his insights can be an education. This is not merely selecting pictures. Mike is poignantly aware of the power of a photograph and his unique attention to nuances in pictures lends itself to finding your most unique and sophisticated images. Working with Mike over the last six years has been the single greatest influence on the development of my photography and my approach to storytelling. Now having him available in a freelance capacity to photographers everywhere is a great gift to our industry.
photographer, Las Vegas
During his time as photo editor at National Geographic Magazine, I had the good fortune to work with Mike Davis on two major stories. He approached each of them with intense preparations and research, often pointing me towards surprisingly little-known, yet important facts of my stories. During the edit itself I enjoyed his sensibility for unique, sometimes daring photographs. And I’m the first to admit that his trained eye found frames I overlooked, which is incredibly valuable to me as a photojournalist working on long term assignments with tens of thousands of photographs.
Mike, thanks again for your incisive, fantastic edit; it achieves that rare thing in photography where the pictures get better because of the edit. Looking it over, I've tried to squeeze one or two outtakes back in but then quickly see why you excluded them. Your edit feels deliberate and thoughtful, not "from-the-hip." I can also see that you understand my "eye" from the selections that you made. I really appreciate that validation. I hope we can work together again soon.
Freelance Photographer, Recipient of The Getty Grant for his work about poor, white South Africans
I tend to struggle mightily with editing my own work. I outthink myself when looking at a large selection of photos. Mike showed me in just an hour why he is so highly acclaimed at what he does. I left the conversation having a whole new, deeper understanding of my work, and the work of others. A lot of the clutter during my own editing process was replaced with a sense of renewed creativity. Mike helped me see the direction I want to take my photography and the tools I need to achieve my short and long term goals. There is no question I will continue to come to Mike with my work. It has been the best decision of my career.
Photographer, GRAIN Images
Mike Davis is a mentor to many photojournalists and known to be one of the best photo editors in the country. He is kind hearted, dedicated, generous, passionate and in love with telling stories. Mike has a remarkable gift for bringing a story alive. In 1998, Mike traveled to New Zealand to present workshops at an international photography festival. Mike’s enthusiasm, energy and talent inspired photographers across New Zealand and Australia and opened our eyes to richer ways of creating documentary images.
Freelance Photographer and Emmy Award Winning Videographer, New York City
Mike is a thoughtful journalist, editor and teacher, passionate about his work and sensitive to the efforts of others. He is stimulated by diversity and different ways of viewing the world. His critiques and comments are always about the work, not the artist.
PhD, Director & Professor The University of Western Kentucky, School of Journalism &amnp; Broadcasting
It is a very difficult and daunting task when you have to edit your own work. Trying to step back and view it objectively after you have spent countless hours not only shooting, but pouring over the images, trying to decide if they are actually great photos or if you are just emotionally attached to them. When I got to this point I knew that I needed to seek further guidance and I knew it had to be from someone that had a very seasoned approach to looking at other artists work.
My good friend Ralph Alswang suggested that I Facebook Mike because he would be the perfect person for me, boy was he right on the money! What was and is important to me when someone is critiquing my work is not only to be straight forward and thorough but also encouraging and supportive of the possibilities of where the work can go from here.
It's always very humbling to have someone like Mike give feedback on your photographs but he was sincere, positive and reassuring. He not only gave me input on some ways to enhance the collection but was also genuinely interested in and excited by the work. Mike also helped me to understand a few very key elements involving sequencing and also qualitative thinking, which is something that I know will be beneficial when moving forward with my project.
Commercial and Art Photographer, Washington, D.C.
I’ve worked with Mike for the last three years and I can honestly say that not one person has helped my career more than him.
Freelance Photographer, New York City
Mike Davis is without a doubt one of the most influential picture editors in the country. Yet unlike many of his peers, his influence is not limited to merely picking the best photographs that grace the world’s publications. Mike’s influence comes from a deeper understanding of a photographer’s potential and vision. His impact on modern photojournalism is evident in the success of so many photographers that have been nurtured by him.
Staff Photographer, The New York Times, and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner
It has been quite a few years since I’ve worked with Mike on a project but that in no way diminishes the memory. It was always the same – the arrival – the greeting – the conversation – the goodbye.
His office was one of many at National Geographic. It was a left off the hall — stepping from fluorescent into incandescent. That’s important for one who sees for a living, the color shifted from public to private, from noise to listening. He always had music playing – jazz or blues or some esoteric bit of sound. It set the tone in ways other than the obvious. The office, a place of commerce, schedules and budgets became a space for storytelling, listening, deepening.
In this way Mike would guide the story. First in understanding the narrative then in selecting the images in a collaborative spirit. I imagine he is even better at this process today.
Sit next to him if you want to learn, if you want your work to sing. Sit and listen.
Making pictures is easy. Saying something with them is hard. Having Mike Davis edit your images in person can be a bit of a daunting experience as he doesn't talk much and it is often hard to tell what he is thinking. He just looks quietly as he clicks through the images, an occasional nod punctuating the silence, but you can see the wheels turning. Over time I have come to not only trust his judgment but admire the way he problem-solves through the visual puzzles laid out before him. Mike has a deep and innate sense of how images interact and flow from one to the other. He has the rare skill of being able to articulate a thought photographically in a concise way.
In 2008 Mike worked with me on an edit of a long-term project that ended up winning POYi's Community Awareness Award. He was able to take more than 300 images and sculpt them into the final 38 that placed in the contest. His ability to see the overall narrative and flow is crucial as I often struggle with being too close to the story. Whenever I need an honest and thoughtful opinion on my work, I know Mike can offer just that. His enthusiasm for the medium and desire to push the craft forward never cease to amaze me.
Freelance Photographer, Charlottesville, Virginia
I have had the great pleasure and honor to work with Mike for the last 3 years. He is one of those unique persons who is calm, focused, clear and has incredible vision. He is concise and one of the best editors I've ever had the pleasure of working with during my entire 15 year career as a photographer.
Freelance Photographer, Portland, Oregon
Mike Davis is the most talented photo editor I have ever worked with. I have had the unique perspective to work with Mike as my boss at the Albuquerque Tribune and, years later, as my deputy in the White House Photo Office. With his incredible eye for visual story telling, Mike brings a perfect blend of creativity and professionalism to every job. As my boss, Mike encouraged me to be more creative in my photography. As my deputy director, Mike’s organizational skills were invaluable in a very complex environment. I highly recommend Mike for any project, large or small.
White House Photo Office Director of Photography, Personal Photographer to the President, 2001-2008
Mike Davis is a virtuoso. He can take a pile of photographic notes and chords and arrange them to make a breathtaking score. Back in early 2001, I was struggling to put together a cohesive portfolio from my work of 2000. I had assembled a set of what I had thought were my strongest images. Then Mike Davis agreed to take a look. I watched as he silently examined my images, his hands occasionally hitting a high note here and a low note there, he arranged and rearranged while pondering different combinations and sequences. Before I knew it, with an approving nod of his head, he was done. His edit, completely different than any I had assembled, hit the nail on the head. Months later, I was named POY Newspaper Photographer of the Year.
It was no fluke. What Mike has done for me, he has done for many others including photojournalistic icons Rob Finch, Jon Lowenstein, Todd Heisler and Barbara Davidson. Mike Davis is hands down the best at what he does.
Staff Photographer, The San Fransico Chronicle, and POYi Newspaper Photographer of the Year
We worked together at National Geographic Magazine and I always found the experience of collaborating with him in giving form to a photographic narrative to always be a satisfying and intellectually stimulating experience. Mike is a superb visual journalist, keenly knowledgeable of both contemporary and historic photographic achievements, and an unquestionable ethical professional.
Freelance Art Director, Former Director of Photography, Senior Editor, National Geographic Magazine
Mike Davis is one of the most talented photo editors I have ever worked with. He's patient, hard working and tough. He's expert at finding the hidden gems and helping to form a cohesive photo essay. Mike helped me edit four months worth of shooting in a single day. The resulting project was accepted by National Geographic's Italian edition, a feat which would never have been accomplished without Mike's help.
Freelance Photojournalist, Boston