Looking out the airplane window,

it was clear I was someplace different.


Having grown up in the North,

the South looked like an open wound

with its red clay ripping through the dense green pines.


Locals enjoyed quizzing me,

“Do you know why the clay is so red?

              It’s from the blood of the Confederate

              soldiers who died here.”


The descriptive answer made clear,

the soil is not merely dirt.

It is precious.

Like kin.



The landscape is a dramatic stage

displaying over ripe narratives

challenging realism and myth.


The roadside is flanked by acres of trees

with burnt black bases.

Farmers intentionally cause

the fires to manage undergrowth,

while the ash fortifies the soil.


They call it,

“controlled burn.”



Controlled burn is a feeling.


The challenge of navigating

new terrain with foreign tools.


The smolder of bucolic memories

confined to gilded frames.


The fester

of social and civil justice.



One day, my boss told me,

“You’re like a sliced up dolphin in an ocean of sharks.”


A few years later, another boss put his arm around my shoulder and said,


“You are doin’ a real good job,

                          but you’re gonna have to learn

                          how to sugarcoat things.


                          You may be right,

                          but you need to say it,





Along the busiest street, the artery called Peachtree,

a green Ford truck drove past with three men.


I brought my hand up to my head and felt blood.

A woman nearby, waiting at the bus stop asked,

            “What happened?”


            Looking down at the sidewalk I said,

                        “I just got hit with a turtle!”

                        “It’s still alive, but its shell is cracked.”

            She replied,

                        “You should take that home and eat it.

                        They’re real good.”



1987, there was an “all-white” county.

I joined the march.

Rumor had it

the night before,

the local gun stores

had sold out of ammunition.


We walked five a breast with linked arms.


Our footsteps

were the only sound of progress.


After 20 years,

I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else.


When I asked the locals.

“How long,

                          do I need to live in the South

                          to be considered Southern?”


Their answer,

is always the same.


“ N


V E R”



Instagram: @shannondavisphotos


Shannon Davis is a photographer, design director, and professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design in the Motion Media and Advertising Departments. She began her career as a creative director, launching the channel Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in the U.S. and Europe. Her immersion into these classic film libraries has shaped her aesthetic to photography with a cinematic and art-directed approach. Her project “I Got Somethin’ To Show You” was a Lens Culture Exposure Award Finalist, Ain’t Bad Magazine Top 100 Photography Series, and top ten finalists in the Duke University Lange/Taylor Prize.