Marc Davidson – Saudade

Marc Davidson


Saudade: A Brazilian (Portuguese) word describing a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for someone who was loved and will never return.

As I explained to my daughters the morning after their mother’s death, “Mommy went for a walk in the woods and something happened that we can’t explain right now, but Mommy went back to nature… Mommy died.”

Picking up my camera and trying to making meaningful images has been impossible since Sylvia lost her battle with depression but the urge to express has been strong.

Using existing images which I printed on aluminum, I created these sculptures as a way of honoring my wife and our life together.




I am a recent widower with two your daughters making images and art when I can to express and to try and make sense of my new life. Before my wife died, I was a freelance photographer working on personal documentary projects with the occasional commercial client however my current focus is my two daughters.


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Marc Davidson


34 Responses to “Marc Davidson – Saudade”

  • Marc, you already know I adore this project. It is haunting and tender and a heartbreakingly beautiful tribute to Sylvia. I admire you for sharing this, it is important work. From the depths of my heart, I wish for happier days ahead for you and your girls. With love and friendship and support, Kerry

  • Original, moving work. Back to nature. I feel honesty, reality… yet surreality, too. True love here.

    Thanks for sharing with the world, Marc.

  • I love everything about this! really moving. It must be hard and your work shows it.
    Even without reading the essay you can tell this is powerful work.
    I hope it’s helping you ease some of the pain.
    Wishing you all the best!

  • perfect

  • Marc:

    thought for a long time whether or not I would write something significant under this piece today……and will try later….but, for now, simply this:

    as you know, all day my thoughts and words and hugs with you and l. and s…..each of you, like warm radiant pools of light in my palm….

    spoke to S this morning walking to work….the getting never ceases in the endless arranging…and yet, is that not the blessing still bequeathed….

    you know how i feel about this work…how much i love it attached to trees and hanging above tongues of water and beneath rims of leaves….and so proud of you and the distance you’ve journeyed and have allowed them now too, out into the world….

    love, b

    p.s. a song from the south about things:

    from Deepstep Come Shining

    “Everyone in their car needs love. Car love. Meat love. Money
    love. Pass with care.

    Deepstep, Baby. Deepstep.

    The boneman said he would take the blinded driver to the river. With
    a mirror. And then what.

    The boneman said he would take the blinded into a darkened
    room. And put a hot-herb poultice on their sightless face.

    Mellein for this mullein for that. We called it flannel.

    Then leave them there.

    The baby sister of the color photographer had a baby girl in the
    hills. Born with scooped-out sockets in the head. Born near the
    tracks they sprayed with Agent Orange. The railroad’s denials,
    ditto the army’s.

    They would have been blue. The eyes. She did not have. Blue
    as the chicory in yonder ditch.

    We see a little further now and a little further still

    She said her lights would be on and they were

    Groping around the sleeping house in our gowns

    Peeping into the unseen

    Beautiful things fill every vacancy

    -c.d. wright

  • p.s. viewers should click on FULL SCREEN in order to be able to view the entire sculpture….

  • (thanks Bob, u just proved once AGAIN why comments under essays could be very very valuable)

    MARC D.= excellent!!!

  • today is the 1 year anniversary of Sylvia’s death and i am spending a quiet day with my daughters so i will write more later but for now…

    thank you to the entire burn family for your kindness and support during these difficult times.

    especially to david.

    and most of all bob.

  • a very touching work.
    my deepest sympathy to you and your daughters.

  • Marc it is great to see when self transcends into the arts and lives without pretensions.
    I will not preempt where you feel the work belongs……….

    Most of us will never see the work in person but if you feel a need to depart with a piece and a new place of rest is needed I know of such a place in far of Tasmania where it can drift slowly and become one with the landscape.
    take care

  • A moving tribute, full of love…

  • Pwerful, Marc – and heartfelt. And I do not mean felt just in your heart, but in the hearts and myself all other viewers of your work who have hearts that continue to feel.

  • marc:

    call u at 9….

    lublu (russian)


  • oh, Marc, btw:

    sending one to Imants in Tazmania would be really fit…u know, as we talked, they need homes :))))….

    i totally recommend his land….

    a place to welp against the sea….

  • Marc,

    Glad to see this here on Burn. Glad I was also able to see the physical objects up close as well. I can’t explain why but I was just thinking of you yesterday and hoping you were doing all right. I could feel your pain back in May, it was hard for me to find words that would offer any comfort. Not finding any fitting words now. But this a wonderful way to honour Sylvia and your memories together. Wishing you and your girls all the best.


  • Beautiful, heartbreaking and very courageous. Thanks.

  • Compositions are imbued with an immense amount of emotion. Sometimes the photographs take second stage to the objects that support them. This is often the case in reality. The objects that surround our lives are often inseparable from our identities. Nice work.

  • She lives thru your daughters…
    and thats beautiful..
    as are your photo installations…..
    to you
    your girls…..

  • marc
    I wrote a comment yesterday but somehow it has not appeared here.

    This is wonderful, rich, and very moving. The red cloth, chains, rust, roots, rocks, and other references all speak to me of where your heart must be taking you, and about the connection of our spirit to the universe. I’m awed by the depth of this.
    I have to admit that I like the edit on your website even more and wish you had included many of the images there.

  • marc

    my dad died when i was very young. i remember us being very close.
    the only thing i wish was different was i wish my mom talked about how much she hurt.
    so i wouldnt feel so alone in my grief.

    this takes me back to the time when i needed something/ someone to console me.
    comfort i find now from YOU, someone i dont know, for a pain scores of years ago.

    thanks for doing that for me today.
    you cannot imagine the difference you’ve made.

  • ALL

    thank you for your kind words. by putting these sculptures out there into the world, i hope in some small way, it can show that it is okay to talk about death and loss. talking and crying and experiencing this loss together as a family has made all the difference in our on-going healing process.

    as painful as my wife’s suicide was for me, i agonized on how and when i was going to tell my daughters the truth about their mother’s illness and how she died. after much deliberation, i came to the realization that the sooner they assimilate this into their lives, the better. so i took them for a walk into the woods to the tree where there mother hung herself and i explained everything and answered their questions as honestly as i could.

    they deserve to know the truth about their mother more than anyone else and i’ve helped them to realize that how their mother died isn’t who she was. having that talk was a big relief and i think it reinforced to my girls the ideas of trust and honesty that are going to get us through this experience.


    yes. let’s touch base through email…


    the photos in the woods which are on my site i did after i submitted these sculptures. andy goldsworthy has been a big inspiration and taking these photos on aluminum and making something out in the woods felt like the natural progression.


    thank you for your kind, honest words. they serve as affirmation for putting the work out there.

    i am convinced that being honest and open with my words and emotions has helped my daugters in their own grief journey. i could never express in words the release i felt sitting on the ground in front of the tree, the 3 of us hugging and crying. it was something we had to do to be able to move forward.

  • Marc…

    This essay makes me drop everything about me and run and hug my wife with my arms holding her tight trying my best to keep her and now here beside me. Those moments when we all slip into automatic mode and love is just something taken for granted, this work slaps you right across the face and sets you straight back on track. I can also see this a cannonball aiming for the stars sending a message of love of how nothing has changed and the love is only stronger and all will be OK.
    Please take care of yourself, your two daughters and the biggest of hearts thumping away inside you. As usual you and your daughters will be present on my mind as I walk tomorrow through a field of now blossom less trees; this is the magic of Burn. You’re not alone, we’re somehow, somewhere with you.

  • “You know you are in love
    when you see the world in her eyes,
    and her eyes everywhere in the world.”

    David Levesque

  • a civilian-mass audience

    MARC and daughters…WE LOVE YOU!!!
    stay strong…we need you

    and remember : “you are not alone”…you have US and we have YOU…!

  • Marc…

    Just one further little point and that is I think you are an extraordinary landscape photographer. These days I’m not usually interested at all by anything connected to the landscape but I must admit this is the second time on Burn I’ve been floored. I haven’t seen anything as connected and as evocative as your’s trees beach and snow covered river since Sally Mann’s “Deep South”. Your images ring of life in it’s full extent and I think perhaps sometime when you once again find the strength to start taking pictures, you perhaps should give landscape photography a try.

  • Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    Yes, echoing Imants – without pretension. Absolutely made from the heart and felt from there too.

  • marc:

    as i promised, some words about Saudade, for as we discussed earlier this year, after having written so much and so often about the work of others, of photographers who I do not know or have no relationship with, it is now time to toss out something for you in public…..much of this, I have already told you directly over wine or Pho or amid the burning of wood and dry carapace of crackled leaves, but the work deserves a reckoning, and not just because of the events or its genesis or of our friendship, so here is something for you…..

    and in a sense it rounds out this intense year, for both of us, and in truth, i can’t think of a better place to stop and rest and return to the quieting that has become such an important chemical and food in both of our lives….will give you copy of loomings next week…

    see you thursday,


    You only live twice:
    Once when you are born
    And once when you look death in the face.

    –After Basho

    We are born of the land and we return to the land, our carapace and our undoing. Feed from that which is grown and harvest and killed and plucked to its breakdown into the chemistry and form which becomes us, we cradle all that around as the mechanics of our being and shuttling, until at the turn’s end, we decompose and ashen into the very chemistry that returns us to the ground around, only to begin again in the feeding of something and someone after. Feed on the dead, we are born of the dead only to give birth again to the living in our dying. A simple formula that sustains us, that churns our oversized selves into simpler markers: we are of those lost before and we become those who acquire life after. Detritus and Fertilizer both.

    What I love about these objects is that they are neither Memento mori nor nostalgic love letters, but something more sustaining, more simple, more generous. They are of the earth. Culled together from the detritus that you have found around your home and woods (steel, wood, branch, cloth, log, wire, tincan, iron), they hold not just the memory of Sylvia and your life together, but they marry the essence of who she was (a creative and strong woman who loved the earth and love to make things from objects lying about) with the land that she loved so well. And while the story of her suicide and long struggle with peace and oneness drives the shaping of the construction, their bent unhinging and their fractured coalescence, their cohesion and strength reminds that long after we depart, and continuing after she left, presence continues to nourish and create. Their simplicity and their fragility (easily falling apart as if made by a child), something that is difficult to see in the pictures, are further powerful qualities of these sculptures. They do not supplant her life nor the land from which they were fabricated, but are extensions of the human effort to wrest from unimaginable unknowing to simple construction. and how beautiful they look against the trunks of trees, or suspended over the limb of a creek, or within the crown of THAT one particular tree. Long after you have left that land, they too will return to detritus and cast-aside ‘junk’ to be re-found and reused by another….

    that cycle is a blessing….

    As i mentioned about Goldsworthy, the power in these sculptures lay their directness and in their unpretentious truth: though they shall fall apart one day as well, the very life, the very light, the very nature that lit them into existence, jettisoned by fain and guilt and horror, will keep them alive and cycling…..

    the work is made up of the very fabric of not only, literally your life together (photos and ribbons from your book, and African wedding bands and drawings), but the spirit of that life. Not morose, but living. A testament for both Laurence and Sauren that Sylvia’s life was not that of abandonment, but that her life was of giving…and that lives inside the two of them and these objects as well…..

    The refinement of love as an act of giving, rather than taking….

    and god damned, if they aren’t incredibly beautiful to carry in one’s hands. I feel priviledged to have tacked them up into trees…..

    A reminder to all about the act of why we make things. for me, to make pictures and books and words is not, until themselves, terribly important, but are rather gestures about connectivity: to the world around, to the land around, to loved ones around.

    In their rusty, unshapely beauty, lay a simple truth for me and one that I wish more would understand clearly:

    It is not what you make in your life, but what you make of your life…

    fio de amor….

  • BOB,

    A profoundly beautiful and heartfelt tribute that does justice to Marc’s beautiful and heartfelt body of work.

  • Sidney:

    thanks Sidney. Marc is that kind of person :))


  • Back to home.. seeing the pictures on your site of these above here makes the circle close.. but more than a circle it is a spiral that continues through you and your daughters.. my best wishes to all of you..

  • Joy is over there in her incredible clothes
    She has silver silk shimmering down to her toes
    I was doing the best that I can I suppose
    But that little girl dancer
    Eventually grows
    Well she grows

    You can’t imagine all the times that I tried
    To uncover the source of the tears that you cried
    Let’s throw it away and just go for a ride
    And you’d say ‘€œok’€ but you’d keep it inside
    And I tried
    I tried
    I tried
    I tried

    We want you to be happy
    Don’t live inside the gloom
    We want you to be happy
    Come step outside your room
    We want you to be happy
    Cause this is your song too

    I never thought I could have it so good
    You were the song that my soul understood
    That time is a river that flows through the woods
    And it lead us to places we both understood
    Would be gone
    Before to long
    Would be gone
    Before to long

    When we were young we thought life was a game
    But then somebody leaves you and your never the same
    All of the places and people belong to the puzzle
    But one of the pieces is gone
    And it’s you
    It’s you
    It’s you
    Joy, it’s you

    We want you to be happy
    Don’t live inside the gloom
    We want you to be happy
    Come step outside your room
    We want you to be happy
    Cause this is your song too

    Anytime we’ll weather this storm
    Inside together you’ll see the change
    When the sun shines through

    We want you to be happy
    Don’t live inside the gloom
    We want you to be happy
    Come step outside your room
    We want you to be happy
    Cause this is your song too
    This is your song too
    This is your song too
    This is your song too
    This is your song too
    This is your song too
    This is your song too
    This is your song too
    This is your song too

  • Very emotional but not cheap sentimantalism here. Deeply human. I couldn’t resist in looking at the pictures without the artwork. Of course the artwork is part of your expression but the photos alone are so telling.
    They made me feel for you but also impressed me.

  • The first time I viewed these sculptures, I clicked through in rapid succession without even reading the title while distracted at work. About half way through, I slowed down. Then, I took each one in slowly, and by the end, I was nearly in tears. Your love is so profoundly experienced through each sculpture – a testament that will surely last longer than all present.

    Thank you for the powerful reminder of love and loss and our short time here on earth. I am sure your daughters will come to treasure this series and through these memories, feel the love you all share throughout life. Love & Peace.

  • I’m literally sitting here crying because these are some of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen. The passion and love of your relationship comes out in a real, powerful way.

    Here’s a poem for these images:

    The Portugese man told me to stop reading guide books.
    How did he know what I was looking for?
    Daniela, my Italian wife, couldn’t cry for fear
    her hair would fall from her head, for fear
    that chemotherapy would be just as it’s described:
    Agent Orange with fettucini,
    Boiling a pot of water would be better, I said.
    Let’s watch it boil to gather the dust and sing,
    For in music, there are composers and then,
    there are samplers. You sir, are a composer.

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