John Davies was born in County Durham, England, and his formative years were spent living in both coal mining and farming communities. He studied photography in Nottingham and after graduating in 1974 he became fascinated by the rural landscape during his visits to the west coast of Ireland. In 1981 he won a one year Research Fellowship at Sheffield School of Art and then lived in Manchester. In northern England and south Wales he documented the areas of coal mining, textiles, steel, quarrying, railways and shipping along with the town and cities associated with these industries.
In 1991 John Davies moved to Cardiff in Wales. Between 1995 and 1996 he was invited to become a Senior Research Fellow based in the Art School at the University of Wales Cardiff. With the Metropoli project, started in 2000, he investigated and explored the way major British post-industrial cities had changed from industrial and distribution hubs to consumer and cultural centres. Between 2000-2003 he photographed Birmingham, Swansea, Belfast, Newcastle, Gateshead, Glasgow, London, Manchester and Liverpool
In 2001 Davies moved from Cardiff to Liverpool where he still lives.