Martha Davis is a self-taught photographer, independent filmmaker, award-winning children’s book author and retired elementary school teacher (TDSB 1991-2017) based in Toronto. She has worked with both children and seniors, empowering them to fulfill their dreams, virtually, through the magic of green-screen photography. Davis has run her “DREAM SCENES” programme in many different schools and daycares, seniors’ residences and Long Term Care Homes since the summer of 2017. She has enriched the lives of over 1000 people, young and old, through the photographs, collages and calendars she has created with them.
During the pandemic, Davis ran an after-school enrichment program for kids aged 6 to 11 and in the summer of 2022, ran week-long “DREAM SCENES” Photography Camps for kids. She currently runs a “Fun with Photography” class for kids on Saturday mornings. The 2000+ photographs she has made with children are in their hands now, decorating fridges, bulletin boards and bedroom walls all over Toronto. A selection of Davis’ “DREAM SCENES” photos of seniors was exhibited in the Scotiabank CONTACT International Photography Festival in Toronto in May, 2019 and again in 2021. Her solo exhibitions, “DREAM SCENES: Seniors on the Green Screen” were at the #Hashtag Gallery in Toronto and virtually in the Gallery at the Miles Nadal JCC. Davis’ work with the seniors is currently available for purchase or exhibition through “Hello Art!” (https://www.helloart.com).
Davis has self-published six books for children of text and photographs using green screen and has won two Writers’ Awards from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario for her children’s books. Check out her TROLLOGY: Three Books about Trolls who Long to Belong at https://www.blurb.ca/b/6886879 or If Pandas could Talk: Conversations with Animals at https://www.blurb.ca/b/5732408.
She is also an accomplished independent filmmaker with 24 shorts and two feature-length films to her credit. Two of her short films were nominated for Genies and, along with one of her features, have been screened internationally. Many of her more recent shorts can be viewed on YouTube. Search “the Martha Tapes.” In this group of videos, there are two that were made in 1995 with her grade 3 class in an intergenerational program. One of these, “She was a Mean Old Cat,” has the children acting out the seniors’ strong school memories in the setting of the old-fashioned schoolhouse. It is poignant and heartbreaking. See it here: https://youtu.be/u8_xjc-x1pE. Check out the comment from one of Davis’ former students!
In the summer of 2021, Davis created PANDALAND, a multi-media installation of toy pandas, in a public place in her downtown Toronto neighbourhood. It caused a sensation and became a go-to destination for children and their families. She made a 14 min. documentary film about PANDALAND which has been screened widely in schools and has garnered several international awards at festivals.
“PANDALAND: Making IT Count” is about how children become engaged and learn to grapple with big social issues. The filmmaker accomplishes this by encouraging playful exploration in a multi-media installation of 70+ toy pandas. The vibe of the film is lighthearted and optimistic. As the children initiate an election of behalf of the pandas, their experience embodies community building, demonstrates civic engagement and conveys the important message that, by working together, even young children can effect change. “The film is a life-affirming tribute to kids’ compassion and the birth of their civic engagement.” (B. d’Angelo, writer)
View the trailer for the PANDALAND film here: https://vimeo.com/726396147 . The full film will be available on the internet in the summer of 2023.
DIORAMA DRAMAS : Exploring Big Issues with Children
In the fall of 2022, Davis began new work she calls “Diorama Dramas.” She had a Lightbox built in her front garden, 11x 17”, and each week creates a new diorama. Each one explores a serious social or environmental issue with a playful and lighthearted touch: animal welfare, climate change, food insecurity, rampant media, the crisis in housing and healthcare. They are meant to encourage discussion between parents and their children about issues of which they might be wary or fearful. Davis uses miniature toys, dolls and bright colours to draw children in. An interview with Davis about her dioramas has been published in the “Journal of Wild Culture.” There are eight photographs of the dioramas in this piece.
The 24 Dioramas will be exhibited in the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in May, 2023. There will be photographs of the dioramas, as well as four physical ones set up. There will be an area where people can create and photograph their own diorama with materials provided. Classes from local schools are being invited to attend, and drama sessions will be held for them. It will all be happening in The Star Gallery at the 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture Art Media and Education, 918 Bathurst St., Toronto, from May 16 to 29th, 2023. Gallery hours are Mon-Fri 9-5, Sat. 11-3, Sun. 12-4.
Excited Senior Participants at the Opening of DREAM SCENES, May 16th 2019