Our online epoch, during which everyone from world leaders to your neighbor’s cat is expected to ‘grow their brand’ on Instagram, artists struggle to gain attention without slipping into cliché or, gasp, be so uncompromising as to seem irrelevant.
Along with all this expectation comes the problem of poisoned authenticity. Photography is already a trial of what is real and what is fake. Posting your best self, or your best work, is a tight-rope walk of garnering eyeballs or an eyeroll. Fortunately, the internet is as vast as Texas, and among the sea of pixels there are some Texas-based photographers who make compelling work that, almost by stroke of luck, suits an online format. For a handful of these, the trick might be (perversely) that they aren’t externally motivated by the potential riches of attention.
On this note, two North Texas-based photographers come to mind. Andrea Danchik of Wichita Falls and Ruth Salverda of Denton photograph those around them, as well as themselves. Both have a bodies of work that exists in small patches here and there on their respective social-media accounts.
Danchik’s photography, mostly self-portraits, is a delicate visual diary. We’re convinced of her viewpoint, while also being given a chance to weigh in. Danchik is the person who keeps a hefty online journal, and publishes on it regularly, with the comments section wide open. There’s a sense of her control trying to bargain with reality.
Salverda has an ability to cut the frame to its most specific element, even when the subject is just out of reach: an embrace, a covered face, or a sign in the distance. Newer phones emphasize proprietary presets and in-camera tools to bring out contrast and clarity in an image. But Salverda’s images aren’t optimized for the crystal glimmer of a shining cheekbone. They cradle the character of the scene.
Salverda on her practice:
“Walking is a very meditative practice for me. When I photograph a person I almost always ask. I like engaging and talking for a minute. My favorite photos happen when I’m relaxed and someone appears. I don’t think too much about why I like them, however, as time goes on I do see patterns emerging, that help me understand and grow myself. But usually they make me happy and excited at the same time. I sort of believe in them at that moment. And the more I photograph the wider variety of people I believe in.”
(Salverda’s work can be seen online at @Ruth_Salverda on Instagram)
These artists, in a sense, are participating from the ‘outside’, dewing the lawn of the internet with their aesthetic considerations. It isn’t a ploy. They present their work quietly yet openly, without strings attached. They give us something to enjoy on our own terms, without the ubiquitous contract between ‘personal brand’ and ‘consumer.’