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Out of Africa

A self-taught Oxford photographer captures fascinating images of African nature and wildlife while on safari.

Written by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Tom Davis

In the past 25 years, Oxford’s Tom Davis has traveled to Africa at least a dozen times with camera equipment in tow. His first African safari was in 1997. In 2001, he returned with his wife, Nan. Daughter Sarah Elizabeth, 25, has been to Africa twice with her dad and they are planning a return. Davis’s most recent African adventure was in May, and future visits are a sure thing.

Davis does not take people on safaris, but with so many experiences in Africa, he loves talking to people who might be planning a visit. He has stayed in luxury lodges while on safari, but he prefers camping close to his intended subjects.

“You never know when a rhino will walk towards you or when a group of elephants will line up at a water hole,” Davis said. “The key is having a good guide.”

Davis has found his. Jean Du Plessis, a lifelong guide, is founder of Wayo Africa, Green Footprint Adventures and Journey’s Intent. Through the years, Davis and Du Plessis have become friends. And with Du Plessis’ guidance, Davis has been at the right place at the right time to shoot hundreds of wildlife photos.

His powerful wildlife photos are breathtaking and allow him to share his experiences with others, making people want to visit Africa or make them feel as if they already have.

Behind the Lens

When State Farm agent Tom Davis was a sophomore at Oxford High School, a friend got a camera and set up a darkroom, Davis was intrigued. He soon got his first camera — a Yashica TL Electro-X Film Camera. He turned a small space in his dad’s office on the Square into a darkroom. He volunteered for the student newspaper and yearbook. He had a new hobby, and he was hooked.

He graduated from OHS in 1971 at age 16. While at the University of Mississippi, studying math and German, Davis volunteered at the Daily Mississippian, photographing sports, campus concerts, check passings and more. In 1975, he was the DM’s chief photographer.

A music lover, Davis had a passion for photographing bands in concert and beyond. And the self-taught photographer, 68, has spent decades doing just that. Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, just to name a few. He’s photographed Alice Cooper for 50 years. The late B.B. King was a photography subject and a friend. When musicians wanted to purchase Davis’ photos, he never took money. Instead, he just asked to meet them or tour with the band or for photography credentials for future concerts.

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