The summer solstice isn’t the only thing turning up the heat in the month of June. For this installment SLUG Localized, metal/hardcore crossover bands and a dose of intense, moody shoegaze are in the forecast, featuring performances from Liar’s Tongue, Absent and NVM. Get ready for a night of insane riffs and rowdy fun on June 20 at Urban Lounge for only $5. SLUG Localized is sponsored by High West Distillery, 90.9FM KRCL and Spilt Ink SLC.


After the mysterious appearance of their Instagram account to the release of their Spring 2019 demo, Absent have made themselves a highly anticipated act in the hardcore scene. While they have only been together since the beginning of the year, they’ve been quickly working toward recording music, playing shows and even booking a West Coast tour this summer.

Dea Giokas (vocals), Martin Theisen (bass) and Hunter Franks (guitar) came together on New Year’s Day, after discussing the project the weekend before. By the time the following weekend came around, it was decided that they would move forward with Absent. “I came home from work one day and Hunter told me that him and Dea were starting a band and they asked me if I would play bass,” Theisen says. For now, the trio are still on the hunt for a permanent drummer.

“We have no interest in playing the typical beatdown, metalcore shit.”

When it comes to their sound, Absent stray from the current metalcore trend and are focusing on a crossover approach. By extracting influences and inspirations from bands like Malice at the Palace, Creeping Death, Metallica and Suburban Scum, they create a thrashy, hardcore, death/black metal hybrid that creeps and haunts just as much as it pummels and annihilates. “I feel like our sound is like if Metallica listened to Suburban Scum and Mayhem,” Franks says.

The goal with Absent is changing the mold. Because each member has different musical tastes, the band comes together through these differences and thrives off of the variety of genres each member brings to the table. “We have no interest in playing the typical beatdown, metalcore shit,” Theisen says. While they may get pigeonholed as metalcore due to their thick, heavy metallic sound, the lack of panic chords and inclusion of blackened, thrashy riffs in their place make them stand out in Salt Lake City’s heavy music landscape. “Hardcore is fun to play when you introduce new things into it,” Giokas says. “If you’re playing what’s popular, it gets really boring, but there are really great crossover bands that have come through that have really made me want to follow their lead.” 

“I don’t ever want [Absent] to be a band that’s just coasting by.”

Absent released their Spring 2019 demo quickly after their formation, with the intent of not only getting their music out there but to get the ball rolling on booking their tour this summer. “Before you reach out as a nobody band, you have to be able to have something for [those booking] to look at,” Giokas says. “We already have seven shows booked, not including the tour that’s already booked out.” Mostly, Absent are proving how serious they are by taking the initiative on their own progress. “I don’t want this to just be a hobby,” Hunter says. “I don’t ever want [Absent] to be a band that’s just coasting by.” There’s a lot of hard work that’s gone into the Spring 2019 demo, and Absent in general, which is paying off quickly, as they’re already gaining momentum. “We did absolutely no promotion for that [demo,] we just dropped it, and right now, has 646 streams on Spotify and 587 on Bandcamp,” Giokas says. “People as far as Japan, Australia and the Philippines have heard our demo, so it proves that it was worth it for us to get our shit together from the get-go.”

While they’re a brand-new band, Absent are quickly making a name for themselves in the hardcore community. Whether it be in the Salty City, or in the numerous other cities they plan on touring on the west coast this summer. There’s no denying that their presence demands attention, and that they’re quickly gaining a lot of it. Their Spring 2019 demo is available on Spotify and Bandcamp, and have shows lined up all throughout June. Don’t miss out on catching them at Localized, and be sure to catch their next move on Instagram: @absent_hc.


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The view outside El Viroleño

El Viroleño

471 W. 800 South, Salt Lake City || 801.595.7021
Monday–Thursday: 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Friday–Sunday: 9:30 a.m.–10 p.m.

I will be the first to admit that I have never really explored Central American food. My exposure has mostly been limited to the occasional plate from a multicultural festival pop-up restaurant. I knew that I needed to dig deeper, but I had no idea where to even begin. When I heard that there was a traditional Salvadoran restaurant along the 8th South corridor, I jumped at the chance to take a closer look.

El Viroleño is housed on the bottom floor of a two-story, brightly-painted orange building. It is difficult to drive past without noticing. The sign out front and the lettering on the sides of the building all boast of the restaurant’s pupusas. As pupusas are considered by many to be the national dish of El Salvador, I knew that this was where I needed to start. From the menu description, I was expecting an empanada-like hand pie, but what came from the kitchen shot past my expectations.

Pupusas & Appetizers

Local artist Alethia Lunares enjoying some pupusas.
Photo: Talyn Sherer

First off, the pupusas are huge. Each one filled an entire medium sized plate. For the uninitiated, as I was, pupusas are at least a little similar to quesadillas in their construction – the main difference is that the filling is stuffed into a piece of corn tortilla dough before it is flattened out and cooked. The restaurant offers five different pupusa fillings. We tried three: the Revuelta, the Locro con Queso, and the Chicharrón. They are all are served with a vinegary cabbage slaw condiment and a jar of spicy tomato sauce. The Chicharrón—filled with a mixture of cheese and shredded pork—was our favorite. It is hard to go wrong with slow-cooked pork. The flavorful juices of the filling added depth to the entire dish and went surprisingly well with the crunch of the cabbage. The Locro (edible flower) con Queso paired cheese with a broccoli-like Salvadoran vegetable (the locro), and the Revuelta mixed in a bit of everything. The restaurant also offers a straight bean-and-cheese or simple cheese option for those wanting something a little less intense. They were all unbelievably sumptuous and filling, and a steal at $3 or less apiece.

Wanting to see how familiar items would come out when given a Salvadoran twist, we ordered a pair of tamales. The Tamales de Cerdo o Pollo ($2.35) differ from other tamales that I’ve tried—they are steamed in a banana-leaf wrapper and not in one made from corn husks. Also, the chicken or pork filling is mixed with peppers and potato wedges. We were encouraged to use the same condiments from the pupusas with the tamales, and that it worked incredibly well. The ratio of filling to masa breading was perfect, and the added freshness and spice of the toppings cut some of the richness of the dish. It was great seeing something familiar to most of us completely reimagined. Even the pickiest of eaters in our dining party loved the tamales.

Entrées

A full serving of El Virolenño's food
Photo: Talyn Sherer

Rounding out a meal that had thus far been made up of tempting appetizers, we ordered two entrées: the Chile Relleno Plate ($9.95) and the Carne Asada Plate ($10.70). Both were served on a plate of rice and refried beans with two thick tortillas. The chile relleno was similar to what I have ordered from Mexican restaurants, consisting of a cheese-stuffed poblano pepper rolled in an egg batter and fried. Where this one differed was that diners could order the relleno with a ground beef or a chicken filling. They were out of the ground beef mixture the day we were there, so we gave the chicken chile relleno a try. I’m glad we did. The tart pepper casing was a good match for the flavor of the chicken, and the spicy tomato smother gave it just the right kick. The carne asada was presented in much the same way—on a bed of refried beans and rice with a pair of tortillas. The marinated flank steak was butterfly cut to make it extra thin, and pan-seared to perfection. The thick Salvadoran tortillas—almost pancake-like in their girth—were consumed, in part, with each bite cut from the steak. The carne asana was easily as good as any I’ve ever had, and I make it a point to order the carne asada almost every time I see it on a menu.

I am really happy that I gave El Viroleño a try. Do not be dissuaded by the industrial neighborhood location or the plastic tablecloths. This is a great place to order large portions of quality, inexpensive food. Try a bit of everything, pair it with a bottle of Mexican Coke, and consider how much weight you’ll gain if you come back as often as you’re going to want to.


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Etsuko Kato
Arahama Kaigan (2018)
Photo: Etsuko Kato

When I arrive at Etsuko Kato’s home, it has just begun to rain and the air has cooled. Her 100-pound Airedale Terrier barks from inside when I ring the doorbell. Kato greets me wearing a black apron and a wide smile as she slips out her front door, remarking that her dog was meant to be about 60 to 75 pounds but surprisingly grew to be much larger.

Kato brings me through a wooden gate to her backyard, where rows of turned dirt create a grid pattern where they have just installed a new sprinkler system. Her studio space is the small back portion of their garage, walled off and without windows or plumbing. She shows me a small water heater installed underneath the long sink and explains the ways she gets around not having access to running water in the space. Rows of tools and processing chemicals are lined on shelves. She says she found most of her equipment on KSL, piece by piece.

The opposite wall contains a long work table with three massive photo enlargers, two meant for black-and-white images and one for color. A back corner rack holds tiny metal and glass collodion wet plates. In the center of the room is a 4×5 Format folding camera on a tripod. She has the lens positioned toward an image of an old-timey couple on a digital screen below one of the enlargers. It is someone else’s picture that they have asked Kato to photograph, in order to preserve the image and memory in a tactile way.

“I need to know my country. I need to know my culture.”

Etsuko Kato
Photo: John Barkiple

Kato left Japan in 2002, landing in Utah and taking ESL courses at what is now Utah Valley University (then UVSC). She had planned to pursue a Master of Business Administration degree at the University of Utah, but was told her English was not strong enough. Even though Kato already held an undergraduate degree from a university in Japan, she was redirected into an undergraduate economics degree. She had done some photography in high school in Japan and decided to see how a photography for non-majors course would fit into her general fine arts requirements. She instantly fell in love and took the same course four times.

Initially feeling that business and art had no clear connection, Kato later realized that management could learn from creativity. “Business is done in a book or through experience, but sometimes it’s not that,” she says. “It’s human to human, and sometimes we need an artistic view.” She completed her degree in photography with a minor in economics.

When Kato immigrated to the United States, she was surprised at how little she felt she knew about her own Japanese history and culture. “I never thought about identity because I didn’t need to think about it,” she says. “But when I moved here, everyone asked ‘Are you Chinese? Korean?’ But when I tell them I’m Japanese, they start talking about my culture—kimono, Geisha, calligraphy. Some of these things I didn’t know about. They know more than me, even though it’s my country. I need to know my country. I need to know my culture.”

“That’s why I’m crazy about photo, because maybe I can create my own family album.”

Mr. Curtis (2017)
Photo: Etsuko Kato

Kato developed her current photographic practice through the determination to learn more about her culture and to preserve the memories of her family. After her former fiancé’s suicide and a college friend’s passing, Kato began taking funeral pictures of the living. Her fiancé only left one photo behind, and the 2011 tsunami in Japan wiped out all physical reminders of her friend. Because of this loss, Kato believes that we must now prepare for death by preserving loved ones while they are still alive.

“We know life and death are next to each other. Right now, I’m still alive, but maybe tomorrow, there’s a car accident, earthquake, maybe fire. Or maybe I die from darkroom chemicals,” she says, chuckling. Creating these images and helping others preserve their family history has also brought her closer to her Japanese heritage. “My family doesn’t have a family album from before World War II,” Kato says. “They were living in Tokyo and when the bomb dropped and it burned up everything. I just know their story, that’s all. That’s why I’m crazy about photo, because maybe I can create my own family album.”

Kato’s desire to preserve history and memory informs a more politically urgent purpose as well. Returning to the 2011 tsunami, Kato believes that humans have to document and learn from their past: “The tsunami had hit the same area about 100 years ago, and we lost so many lives and houses,” she says. “When I was standing in that tsunami disaster area, I only could tremble with fear—I knew of our stupidity and how small we were.” Ultimately moving towards a mindset of change, Kato says that “I think that disaster was a commandment for mankind. It is something we must remember and should never forget.” Her photography serves as a crucial element of this remembrance. In her Blue Journals series, grainy photographs are starkly stained with blue ink as a means of taking Kato’s negative thoughts and turning them into more positive, productive art.

“I want to use this paper for photographs because I’m printing my identities, making my work more strong.”

Ishinomaki
Photo: Etsuko Kato

Kato is currently in the process of transitioning her collodion practice from metal plates to glass plates because of their fragile, tactile nature and because “glass has a shorter life than metal,” much like the human life.

While she is dedicated to photographing the living, she also transforms paper or digital images of the dead—like that old-timey couple—into one-of-a-kind physical wet plates. When she gives the wet plate of the deceased person to their family member, she asks that they write a letter to the spirit in the image to begin a conversation with the dead. Kato strongly believes that this physical item helps to bring the spirit of the dead closer to the living by using the photo as a vehicle or vessel for that spirit. She eventually wants to hold a ceremony with the living person in which they burn their letter, hoping the smoke of the message will rise to heaven. “We need to heal from the loss and help others heal,” she says. “But my friend’s death happened 20 years ago, and I’m still thinking about it. I want to heal myself, too.”

Recently, Kato returned to Japan to learn how to make paper. She had learned about a project in World War II in which the Japanese forces fashioned “balloon bombs” out of traditional handmade paper. These balloons carried bombs, triggering devices and other mechanisms across the Pacific Ocean with the hopes of igniting the forests of the Pacific Northwest region of The United States. Kato’s grandparents are World War II survivors, and she felt that learning how to make this traditional paper would not only bring her closer to her familial history, but could be utilized in her creative practice. “I want to use this paper for photographs because I’m printing my identities,” she says. “Making my work more strong.”

“Sometimes the history is hard, but art is much easier.”

Even though she once felt distant from her Japanese culture, going back to Japan and learning traditional paper-making, as well as other skills like shibori dye, candy making and tea ceremonies, brings her closer to her own identity. “Little by little, I’m learning about myself more. I understand more why I do this,” she says, motioning to her equipment.

Kato is currently pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree in photography at the University of Utah, continuing her work on funeral images and wet plates. She is also beginning to combine photography with printmaking by creating anti-war propaganda posters in Japanese and featuring old photos of children. She hopes that art will find a way to bring awareness to the way war affects youth. “Sometimes the history is hard,” she says. “But art is much easier. Using art and learning how I felt about it has created that connection.”


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Céline Downen

“Can you be an artist and a mother?” SLC multimedia artist Céline Downen asks me this question as a sort of setup, knowing that yes, of course you can—you must. Art subsists on the life of the artist. The brighter, tougher question buried underneath is “What art is made possible by virtue of being a mother?” The Quotidian Details, Downen’s exhibition opening at Finch Lane on June 14, offers us so many answers—each one provokes even more questions about our relationship to home, personal space and daily work.

Core to Downen’s process is observation. As a mother to two children, Downen finds that her workspace and home seep into each other. All around, she discovers leftovers of her family’s days, particularly her children. For instance, both had a habit of leaving stray strawberry stems and leaves around the house after snacking. Rather than throw them away, Downen collected the leaves and created a series of 16 cyanotypes titled “Strawberry Seasons,” making elegant art out of waste. “I challenge myself to use these materials around me,” Downen says. “I’m embracing what my life is rather than trying to put on a façade of being something else, whatever that would be.”

“I’m just fascinated by these birds.”

This idea of authenticity, of collecting everyday materials and looking around herself and her community have all been strong themes in her work for years. She brings up nesting, tells me about her interest in birds and how they build. “They’re very particular about nests and their homes,” Downen says. “Some will gather natural materials from around their space. Magpies, they don’t really care what’s in their nest. Sometimes you’ll see construction tape and string, big wads of plastic.” Downen became particularly fascinated with the bowerbird, which are more particular. Male bowers build tree-like structures primarily using wood. One variation they’ll often construct is a thick piece of wood with sticks around it. Bowers will then collect particular objects and decorate their nest. Downen plans on emulating this with at least one of her pieces. “I’m just fascinated by these birds,” she says.

Knowing this, Quotidian Details clicks into place. Downen has saved hundreds of eggshells from breakfasts she’s cooked for her family. Dryer lint from 146 loads of laundry are pressed and cut into hexagonal shapes. It’s a form of nesting that also documents the passage of time, slows its slip through aging fingers. Another piece, “Trip Chain,” tracks the amount of times Downen has had to stop and go at stoplights in her daily errands to pick up her children from school. This is visualized through stitches on cloth that depict the route she takes, with different stitches showing when she hit a red, yellow or green light. Her kids help with this, taking notes for her as she drives.

Strawberry Season 1–4
Photos: Céline Downen

“Everybody benefits when you give yourself space.”

Looking at Downen’s pieces I find myself thinking about the concept of domestic labor—the work we expect of mothers and wives that is so integral and yet so backgrounded. Downen subtly brings forward evidence of this labor and presents it in a way that disarms and delights. Small tasks add up over time, and seeing them this way creates an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Downen’s motherhood is consistent and strong—to take care of her children, it must be, but Downen as an artist is also expressive, clever and resourceful. In repurposing her own work, she places an importance on these traits, and it creates a kind of gift for her children that they will probably not realize the value of until much later. Sometimes they’ll help their mother create;”quests,” they call them: gathering wood, tracking stoplights, finding materials—but their most important role is simply to be children. One of Downen’s most beautiful pieces is a pair of to-scale cyanotypes of her children, made by having them lie down on a cloth during the cyanotype process. The result is a sheet with their imperfect silhouettes imprinted on top, a piece of their youth preserved by their mother as an object.

And yet, though she proves so much is possible in being both an artist and mother, Downen also feels anxious at times, worried to rest rather than continue her work. She’ll feel guilty—how does her work potentially distract her from the life it draws from? “The last couple of days, I’ve spent just working with lint,” Downen says. “Sometimes the kids are asking me questions, and I want to just say, ‘This is my time.’” It’s easy to forget how important “me” time is when others rely on you, she tells me. “Kids need to learn it though, too. Everybody benefits when you give yourself space.”

“Talking about daily work is cathartic, like having a long, overdue conversation.”

Inevitably, Downen and I talk about her mother and their relationship, what inspired her and what frustrated her, what she could and couldn’t appreciate as a child. We talk about our own schedules and what it means to ask for time and space for yourself. I think on the ways I have nested over the years since leaving home, taking trash and treasures with me. Inevitably, I think of my own mother and the hundreds, probably thousands of eggs she has cooked for me, the loads of laundry she did for me. I think of my friends, whose mothers could not or would not do the same. Quotidian Details explicitly invites these thoughts, even offering viewers the chance to hang their own musings on life’s mundane and daily tasks above an old, wooden school desk Downen has repurposed. This collaboration is important to Downen, and I can see why—talking about daily work is cathartic, like having a long, overdue conversation. 

Visit Finch Lane on 1340 E. 100 South in Salt Lake City, June 14 – Aug. 2, to see Quotidian Details.


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Denae Shanidiin
From Labor and Beauty Series | Alkaan, Sacred Diné Corn Cake 2018
Photo: Denae Shanidiin

Local photographer Denae Shanidiin is truly the embodiment of a multicultural artist. Working in images, ceramics, fashion and activism, Shanidiin expresses her complex Indigenous and Korean identity as it intersects with her place in the story of women and Native invisibility. Focusing on missing and murdered Indigenous people, as well as the beauty of labor and community, Shanidiin’s images speak quiet yet soaring truths of pain, love and belonging.

“Making images is my way of integrating myself into a nation, community, clan and sense of self I belong to but haven’t always nourished,” Shanidiin says. “My practice began when my first love gave me a camera to take home with me to the rez. My first roll of film was really beautiful … to me. I went to college for it, practiced hard and played hard with my dear friends, and was taught by some pretty rad professors. I’ve valued the nude, the intimate, the sacred, the personal, the ugly and the land.”

Shanidiin’s images often center around the simple yet sacred human moments in Indigenous experience, including the most painful and raw realities of violence, colonization and disappearance that sit at the core of that experience. Her works are also imbued with a love and affection for lived experience that shine through and show her heart. Shanidiin reflects on her most meaningful images in her recollection: “the documentation of my older sister growing and giving life, photographs of my grandparents doing anything, because anything they do is beautiful to me, photographs of my first boyfriend that remind me of a really blissful and sweet time in my life. The work is directly linked to my self-esteem, self-significance. I need to create beauty to feel mentally healthy and elated.”

“The images reflect a space sacred enough to call home.”

Denae Shanidiin
Photo: Matthew Hunter

Her more recent works over the past year have centered around the missing and murdered, an artistic and activist mission that has come with costs as well as growth.

Shanidiin relates the litany of effects this work has had on her personally this year, “A lot of anger, tears, heartache, homesickness, fire and being painfully humbled by the strength of this human condition,” she says. “I was gifted a lot of medicine and protection during this time while I was observing a lot of chaos (children of dead mothers, aunties and mothers with broken hearts, and the decline of health to follow after this kind of pain, [which] I have found to be in abundance). The medicine helped with this exposure … medicine being blessings, prayer paraphernalia, companionship and love.

“I feel strong and I’ve grown so much. I’m grateful to know these truths and to address them in ways that I am capable of.”

Alongside her missing and murdered project, Shandiin balances photographic tales of everyday Indigenous life, including human interactions rooted in simplicity. “I find myself gravitating towards the beauty of labor and, in that,” she says, “finding symbolism, memory, strength, and resilience in the many ways of life we live as Indigenous people.” Her Labor and Beauty Series | Alkaan, Sacred Diné Corn Cake 2018 tells of the crafting of a consecrated, shared experience. “The images reflect a space sacred enough to call home, a place where generations of women are congregated in prayer for intentional purpose, to ensure that our young girls are blessed in the ways that define us as Diné women. It’s a beautiful way to love our people, our mother earth and our ancestors.”

“I like to stay grounded within myself and not find myself in any scene.”

From Labor and Beauty Series | Alkaan, Sacred Diné Corn Cake 2018
Photo: Denae Shanidiin

Shanidiin’s awareness of community and collaboration are suffused within her artistic career, as she honors both her Indigenous artist colleagues and her ancestry.

“I have many artists in my bloodline,” she says. “I know it to be part of my spirit. I also live in a home with many creators. Shi’ma, my mother, and my sisters are all artists, and we dream a lot together … create in different ways, and often, we make things to adorn our limbs, fingers and ears. My very dear friend Alexis Munoa (also a photographer) … her images and concepts around beauty and home, language and land is very often the topic of conversation between us two. Her love for creation and healing through her practice is incredibly beautiful and influential to me. My favorite Diné artist is Jeff Slima painter whose work involves a lot of colors—which is somehow not overwhelming for me but rather fascinating. I love the way he paints figures and hands, and his concepts are spiritually intelligent.”

Shanidiin’s respect for fellow Indigenous artists seems to highlight her own work further, and she finds herself seeking authenticity and an accessible, unglamorous approach to her place in the world of contemporary photography. “I like to stay grounded within myself and not find myself in any scene, but rather do work that feels true and good for me and that feels like home,” she says “I’m learning how to be more intentional in my taste and with the tools that inform images I seek to create.”

“I see my work finding a relationship closer to home, where my grandparents live. I hope to confront racism, honor Indigeneity and explore beauty with my viewers.”

From Labor and Beauty Series | Alkaan, Sacred Diné Corn Cake 2018
Photo: Denae Shanidiin

It seems fitting that Shandiin seeks to cultivate a sense of safety and sanctuary in her work, two deeply vital and inviolable human needs of which her Indigenous culture has been divested. Her imagery and the way she integrates fully into it makes for herself and her subjects something of a home. “It’s a really nice way for me to honor what I value,” says Shanidiin. “It makes me love my world more, appreciate my relations more fully, and it helps me process pain and my story. In that experience, I find growth, and to me, that’s refuge … always growing. The experience of growth is realized in the moments of stillness and processing.”

Shandiin envisions her future work coming ever further back to her sanctuaries: “I see my work finding a relationship closer to home, where my grandparents live. I hope to confront racism, honor Indigeneity and explore beauty with my viewers. It’s kind of where I’m at personally … my sense of self as an artist isn’t linked to this idea of seeking glamour and any public reaction. This past year has been taxing for me, doing missing and murdered work, and my spirit has been all over the place. So in that experience, I’ve been digesting the idea of returning home. My home is where my grandparents are, a place I will return to, a place of refuge, a quiet and humble space for me to be, where I often experience the most loving and profound moments, among my kin in their sacred years of old age.”

Shanidiin’s images can be found on Instagram @denaeshanidiin, and her missing and murdered project at @mmiwhoismissing.


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Photo: Matt Rubin

In 2019, we can sometimes take talented professional photography for granted, with social media feeds filled with amazing photos from some of our personal favorites as well as friends and family who are handy with a cam, it’s easy to become numb to all of the skill that is out there. Davey Wilson’s photography gripped my attention in a unique and out-of-the-ordinary way. With intense subject matter like rugby, intimate athlete portraits and shots that make you think beyond the image itself, Wilson takes an approach all his own to his work, and it shows in his many portfolios. Wilson’s story is as unique as his photography with many elements coming together to put him in the position he is in today.


SLUG: Where are you from and when did you get your start in photography?

Wilson: I was born in Arizona but raised mostly in England and Italy. Art has been a part of me all my life. At age 12, I remember being brought into the principal’s office with my parents and my art teacher. I thought I was in trouble. “We have a problem here—your son is unteachable,” he said. “What I mean is your son should be teaching the class.” From then on till I graduated high school, I was in an independent art studies class—graded on total output versus quality of output. Photography was the last medium of art I worked with, not actively shooting until age 19, but it’s my favorite because it’s real, raw and relatable. You can communicate so much to the viewer in a split second!

SLUG: A lot of your photos involve motion and action. Was that always your favorite way to shoot?

Hagens Berman Axeon's Cole Davis takes a fast turn in the Redlands Stage 4 Crit, 2019.
Photo: Davey Wilson

Wilson: Actually, I got my start shooting portraits of my friends, as well as street photography in New York, and A LOT of music photography. I skipped college after being recruited by Columbia Records at age 20, so working in the music industry naturally shifted my focus to music for many years.

Sports came to me later. A friend of a friend played for New York Knights (Rugby League), and rugby always attracted me as a subject to shoot for the intensity and the brotherhood it entails. My British grandad played rugby, so it really connected me the culture I grew up in. It’s an epic sport to shoot—it’s like war! There’s nothing better than the feeling when you nail a long carry sequence, a brutal ruck or the perfect dive try, and there’s always a great story to tell!

About a year after I started shooting rugby, a friend recruited me to shoot for Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team after seeing some portraits I shot for A$AP Rocky back in NY. I’m actually in Sacramento, shooting the Amgen Tour of California with them as we speak.

I love covering cycling equally because of the sheer speed combined with such epic backdrops. It’s a beautiful sport, but can be equally brutal when riders crash.

Today, most of my focus is split between these two sports, but I’m always looking to expand!

SLUG: Did playing sports get you into photography, or what was the tipping point for branching those two worlds together?

Wilson: Although I’m a runner, I never got to play team sports much, but I use that to my advantage as a sports photographer because it gives me a fresh perspective and allows me a see the big picture and focus on what looks aesthetically great. I’m also not your standard sports photographer, stuck in their box at the side of the pitch. I get completely immersed in the teams I work with, and behind-the-scenes coverage is as important to me as the action—aiming to give viewers a unique perspective so they feel a part of it all.

SLUG: Your client list on your website is pretty extensive. What have been some if your favorite projects? What have been some obscure projects or “pinch me” type of moments in your career?

Wilson: Thanks, I actually need to update that list! I think one of my favorite projects was documenting ultra-runners on a 50-mile race for The North Face, since it pushed me a little outside my comfort zone since it’s not a sport I normally cover, and that’s a really powerful thing.

I’ve actually been trying to link up with one of the runners I met on that shoot and hope to return to ultra-running soon. It’s just a matter of finding dates where I’m not already booked and figuring out logistics.

SLUG: You seem to shoot a lot of portraits that come off powerfully. Do you direct these shoots, or is it more of a candid lifestyle type of process to get those shots?

ean Berry of Army West Point Rugby cools down after the tough fight of a match, 2016.
Photo: Davey Wilson

Wilson: Anything you see shot with natural light on location is completely candid and captured in the moment. After working with athletes for a while, they forget I’m there, and that’s when those images get really good!

My images with strobes are the opposite—über-produced and directed.

It’s two completely different ways of working, but I love both equally for different reasons!

SLUG: Rugby can be a rough game. Have you ever suffered any collateral damage from shooting?

Wilson: Yeah, I’m actually recovering from a hand injury after breaking three out of five knuckles in my left hand from a stray rugby ball. Thankfully, I’m right-handed, and it hasn’t slowed my work schedule one bit.

SLUG: What skills need to be considered in getting quality motion shots?

Wilson: Focus, timing and being a really keen observer are all super important in sports. Having extensive knowledge of the sport can be a gift for following and predicting the action, but also a curse because you might miss the big picture that comes from having a fresh perspective.

SLUG: In the Instagram and social media age, it seems everyone is a photographer and or model of sorts. What are some pros or cons to this movement?

Wilson: Instagram, social media and the internet can be great tools in helping photographers reach more people and leads for jobs. Can it make photography more disposable? Sure, but it’s on us as artists to find a way to harness these platforms to our own benefit.

SLUG: Was becoming a professional photographer always a goal, or did something lead you into this by accident?

Utah Warriors' AJ Tuineau dodges a tackle from Glendale Raptors.
Photo: Davey Wilson

Wilson: My first long-term flat mate in New York, Daragh McDonagh, is probably to thank for planting the seed and encouraging my photography career. He’d just wrapped his tenure as full-time assistant to the late Richard Avedon and was making his mark as a photographer in music at the time (and went on to be a great photographer in his own right). I still had my day job at Columbia Records, but would regularly shoot anything and everything I’d see in NY. I recall working on images at our tiny West Village flat one day, and he walked by noticing my work and asked me, “Why aren’t you a photographer?” I told him I’d never even thought of it, only for him to reply something like, “You can’t teach people to see the way you do—you should shoot more.”

I continued shooting for the love of it, and about a year later, I received a call that pop punk band Metro Station needed a photographer to shoot some promos in Brooklyn in the off-time around their video shoot. I’d never shot a posed portrait shoot before, but I winged it, their record label loved the work, and everything snowballed from there.

Some people say I got lucky, but I don’t feel that way at all. If anything, it put a fire under my ass to learn everything I could about light while working endlessly to improve my craft and refine my skills. You can be in the right place at the right time, but you still got to bring the talent to have any kind of staying power.

SLUG: What are some current or future projects you are excited about? What about photography in general gets you excited about the future?

Wilson: I never talk about future work because I don’t want to jinx it, so [SLUG] readers will have to wait and see.

What gets me excited about future of photography is all the advancements that offer us photographers the freedom to capture moments like never before. I remember years ago photographers being fearful of the transition from film to digital imaging as the new standard, but I’ve always embraced change.

SLUG: Who are some of your favorite sports teams? Do you ever find yourself shooting a team that you are maybe not necessarily a direct fan of? If so, does getting to know the team turn you into a fan?

U23 World Time Trial Champion, Mikkel Bjerg, warms up for the Amgen Tour of California TT, 2018.
Photo: Davey Wilson

Wilson: That’s easy. Manchester City (soccer), Wigan Warriors (Super League), Northampton Saints (Premiership Rugby) and England Rugby. In cycling, Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling team, and not because of my work with them, but because of the raw talent and excitement they’ve brought to the sport.

Honestly, though, I don’t need to be a fan to cover any sport because it’s not about that for me. It’s about telling stories of athletes—their struggle, their failures, their victories and documenting the growth. There’s something truly human about sports stories that we can all relate to, and that’s why I love covering it as a subject. For this reason, I’m always actively looking to cover sports I haven’t worked in before.

I’m not one to get star-struck—and I don’t know if covering a specific team turns anyone into a fan per se—but for me, a great deal of respect develops, and I sincerely want them to succeed.

SLUG: What are the technical aspects to shooting motion/action? What equipment/settings do you use to make these images possible?

Wilson: Honestly, timing and one’s ability to observe is more important than anything. The artificial intelligence–powered autofocus tracking they’re putting in today’s sports cameras is an incredible feat, but it’s no replacement for the skills of a sports photographer. Most of us still opt for the simplest AF modes over the tracking, so the AF sensor in your camera needs to be swift and accurate.

As far as gear goes, I shot Canon followed by Sony for many years. I really loved my Sony kit, but I was shooting a bike race in Breckenridge [Colorado] at 10,000 feet of elevation with a full kit on my back (probably 30 lb.), and I remember thinking, “There’s got to be a better way!”

This lead me to Olympus & Micro Four Thirds, a format I turned my nose up at for years because of the small image sensors, but never was I so glad to be proven wrong! It cut the weight of my kit in half, and it’s liberated me to take images I could never pull off before, thanks to its class-leading image stabilization combined with ultimate portability and weatherproofing!

In my bag right now are two Olympus OM-D E-M1X bodies (Olympus’ new professional sports camera) with boatload of glass including their m.Zuiko 300 mm. f/4 (600 mm. equivalent), 40–150 mm. f/2.8 (80–300 mm.), 7–14 mm. f/2.8 (14-28 mm.), 12–40 mm. f/2.8 (24-80 mm.), 17 mm. f/1.2 (35 mm. equivalent), 25 mm. f/1.2 (50 mm.) and 45 mm. f/1.2 (90 mm.).

E-M1X is just so solid & incredibly reliable! Wherever you place that point is in focus instantly, and the ergonomics are second to none—so comfortable to hold even on long shoots. It’s fully weather-sealed to the point of being IPX-rated, freeze-proof and dustproof so you can use it in the Arctic, Death Valley or through torrential downpour without ever running for cover! I highly recommend it to anyone bent on covering sports twho doesn’t want to be weighed down with heavy, bulky, full-frame glass. With E-M1X,you can comfortably shoot 600 mm. handheld.

If you’re on a budget, then check out E-M1 Mark II, its sibling, which still performs amazingly well but in a much smaller form factor. I use that one a ton for behind-the-scenes documentary photos with F1.2 primes.

SLUG: Can you give a breakdown of some of your favorite or most used gear when shooting action as opposed to stills?

Utah Warriors' Wing, Fetu’u Vainikolo, suits up for the match.
Photo: Davey Wilson

Wilson: My kit is mostly Olympus now. OM-D E-M1X for both action and studio work and OM-D E-M1 Mark II for documentary/behind-the-scenes. Just in love with these cameras—the colors straight out-of-camera are some of the best, and since they use variants of the same image sensor, I can use them in parallel, and the color matches up perfectly!

I haven’t shot film in many years. If I ever went back, probably Yashica T4 for its simplicity paired with a Zeiss 35 mm. fixed—hard to go wrong with that one.

Wilson’s passions for shooting and optimistic approach to his work make one appreciate all that our favorite photographers do to get the shot. Broken knuckles and all, Wilson does what it takes to get the shot, which is something I personally love to hear. Wilson is constantly shooting and putting work out there online and through social media. Check him out at daveywilson.com or on Instagram, @daveywilson. In the meantime, get inspired and get out shooting!


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Salt Lake County Fair 5050 BMX Demo
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The summer solstice isn’t the only thing turning up the heat in the month of June. For this installment of SLUG Localized, metal/hardcore crossover bands and a dose of intense, moody shoegaze are in the forecast, featuring performances from Liar’s Tongue, Absent and NVM. Get ready for a night of insane riffs and rowdy fun on June 20 at Urban Lounge for only $5. SLUG Localized is sponsored by High West Distillery, 90.9FM KRCL and Spilt Ink SLC.


Liar’s Tongue have made a name for themselves—not only in the 801, but across the country, making them an SLCHC essential. Their reputation is impressive, and they’re constantly proving themselves, from releasing their first full-length album, Threat of Intellect,  in September of 2017, to playing big fests like For the Children in California. They’ve also had their name on big bills, as they’ve played shows with not only Knocked Loose, Downpresser and Mizery, but they’ve also toured Purgatory and Easy Money.

While Liar’s Tongue have seen different members and variations of their lineup since their formation in 2014, the current incarnation of the group stands tall with Mike Collins (vocals), Tyler Statler (guitar), Tyler Levie (bass), McCabe Johnson (drums) and the newest member, Richard Arias (guitar).  While Liar’s Tongue is a Utah-built band, their members span out to the West Coast, as Arias lives in Southern California and all throughout Northern and Southern Utah.  Liar’s Tongue met Arias when touring with his original project, Sacred Fire in 2017. After finding out that Sacred Fire broke up, they jumped at the opportunity to have Arias in the band. “At first, it was a serious [idea], but only if we could make it happen,” Statler says. “When I asked Richard [to play guitar for LT] he said he would love to.”

“People in Salt Lake don’t want to headbang for three minutes at a time—they want to beat ass.”

Salt Lake loves heavy music, which isn’t a mystery—especially when it comes to the local hardcore scene. However, instead of treading the beaten path of ’90s metalcore influences, Liar’s Tongue carve their own with a thrashier sound. “When we first started, we wanted to mix heavy with thrash to make a more crossover sound,” Statler says. “I think we really did that well, but now we’re leaning more towards riffy, groovy, thrashy, fast-paced, two-step shit.” While they admit they aren’t as heavy as they used to be, they still aren’t giving up on the mosh riffs.  “We’ll always have mosh riffs because not only do you have to have them, but because people in Salt Lake don’t want to headbang for three minutes at a time—they want to beat ass,” Statler says. While that may be the case, Liar’s Tongue have found a way to blend the two to make a listening experience unique to who they are. “I feel like a lot of bands here are super heavy, but we’re heavy in a different way,” Collins says. With Liar’s Tongue, there’s something for all heavy-music fans to enjoy, as they grow and diversify the local hardcore landscape with their developing sound.

Their influences range from (but are not limited to) Metallica, Cruel Hand and Power Trip, all of which show through in their music. “When I first got into hardcore, I started listening to Trapped Under Ice, Terror and Backtrack,” Collins says. “Then I started listening to Take Offense and Cruel Hand, and they were hardcore bands, but they weren’t all about breakdowns and shit. They had riffs and they were fast, and that’s what turned me on to all of that. For me, it’s riffs over break downs, that’s it.”

“For me, having fun is the most important thing and everything else comes after. You can be the biggest band in the world, but if you’re not having fun, it’s kind of pointless.”

While they may be miles apart and can’t have steady, weekly practices, they still find a solution to make the band happen. “The plan is that Richard and I are going to write riffs together,” Statler says. “I’ll send over my raw recordings, he’ll show me what he comes up with, and he’ll map out drums on his computer.” From there, they learn the songs individually, and when they finally come together, the pieces fall into place.

“All I’ve ever wanted to do is go on tour,” Collins says. “For me, having fun is the most important thing and everything else comes after. You can be the biggest band in the world, but if you’re not having fun, it’s kind of pointless.” Because Liar’s Tongue are fueled by their passion for music and their craft, a big goal of theirs is to take their music to the next level. “I want to do bigger things and have fun,” Statler says. “Some bands get a good following and then they just break up, and I don’t want to be that band.” Right now, their biggest goal is touring. More specifically, finding a way to tour places like Europe and Australia. “It used to be a big deal to play out of state,” Collins says. “But now, I want to go out of the country and play music.” While they want to tour internationally, they recognize the impact of their tours within the U.S. “When we were playing Florida and people knew our songs and sang along, that was fucking crazy,” Collins says.

When it comes to their plans for 2019, they’d like to release a two-song tape to show what they’re working on with the new line-up and continue writing for an EP, hopefully by the end of the year. While there’s talk about potentially touring this year, there’s nothing set in stone quite yet. Their album, Threat of Intellect, and their most recent track, “The Infernal Region” are available to stream and purchase on their Bandcamp.


More on SLUGMag.com:

Local Review: Liar’s Tongue – Threat of Intellect
From Pop Culture to Laugh Tracks: An Interview with Bryan Garris of Knocked Loose

Tiana Birrell in front of her artwork.

Attempting to bring the unseen to light, artist and environmental humanities master Tiana Birrell is striving to accomplish a challenging goal. A recent graduate and Digital Matters Fellow with the University of Utah, Birrell has spent the last several years researching the intersection between the digital and physical realms. Attempting to highlight the “large environmental footprint” created by data centers and the vast amount of energy required to house the unfathomable amounts of data stored there, Birrell’s latest installation, Finding Place in the Digital, sparks an interesting dialogue between science and art through a multimedia presentation.

Raised in Massachusetts, Birrell always explored the world from her own backyard. Her father was a biologist, her grandmother an artist. Both lent a huge amount of inspiration for her passions as a photographer and anthropologist. “I’ve always been snipping and cutting and pasting and painting … [and] I grew up in a rural part of the state, so being outside was always a huge part of my life,” Birrell says.

Birrell was accepted to the Art Institute of Chicago, where she completed a BFA in both Photography and Anthropology. “When I was doing my BFA, I was making a lot of paintings, and it was really therapeutic and helpful for me understanding myself. It was my way of processing the world,” Birrell says. “But then, I got to a point where I was only thinking about myself. I started thinking about my other interests, and how I could incorporate other things together. So, I picked up another degree in anthropology. I kind of left my BFA not really knowing what I wanted to make art about. But I knew that I wanted my art to be supplemented by something else. I needed to interview and survey and get out of my own bubble.” And get out she did.

Birrel uses her camera as a means of “bringing those invisible structures and infrastructures into visibility.”

After falling into a sort of digital rabbit hole, she began thinking about her photographs and where exactly they were stored. “As a photographer, I need a lot of storage for photos and videos,” Birrell says. “In doing research on the cloud and external hard drives, I learned that the cloud is an actual place in North Carolina. I learned about land management and politics, and permissions for getting access to those spaces and how it affects the local community. And then, I found all these data centers in Utah, and it being a desert and how much cheap electricity and water they get, it started to fuel my art.” Inspired by the romantic ideals portrayed by photographer Alec Soth’s “Sleeping by the Mississippi,” Birrell began combing the mountains and streams of the Uintahs. During her wanderings, she used her camera as a means of “bringing those invisible structures and infrastructures into visibility.”

Her most recent exhibit represents her master’s thesis of “materializing our information.” Inspired by the data centers in Utah, Birrell began researching and photographing the pipes, dams and rivers that all contribute to the cooling of these centers. The camera, Birrell says, was initially just her “companion” in the beginning of the project, used to help viewers visualize the vast data channels. It thus ended up helping her create an entire installation of data and images that incorporates her video art, photography and technical writing into one tangible space for viewers of all ages to learn from.

“I thought that was a very interesting way of talking about the internet, trying to make it feel wild and sublime and touchable and untouchable.”

Water you doing? Finding Place in the Digital, featured at the University of Utah’s Marriott Library, is a beautiful exhibit that combines visual mixed-media art, performance art and a book featuring “100 different words that have an analog and digital component.” To convey incorporeal ideals as reality, Birrell created a collection of icons, each representing a different technological definition used to help her audience connect more with the digital world. “I was thinking of the internet terms and how Apple uses animals and locations for their software and updates,” she says. “I thought that was a very interesting way of talking about the internet, trying to make it feel wild and sublime and touchable and untouchable. They use advertising to perpetuate the way people think about the internet. Although Apple is just one example, they’re a huge company. So, I started thinking about the language used when talking about the internet such as leopard as a cat, and Leopard as an Apple OS update—or viewing a bug as an insect or something used to [monitor] someone.”

Though Birrell is not a native Utahn, it seems she may have found a space here that satisfies both the scientist and the artist within her. She to continue to show her project in and out of Utah [now that she’s completed her schooling]. She hopes to expose others in the same way she exposes architecture and design with her photographs, as seen in her photo series with SLUG. Be sure to check out Tiana Birrell’s exhibit at the Marriott Library, where it will be shown until June 1, or check out her website


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Hirad Sab: Art for an Anarchic Future
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Godzilla: King of Monsters | Michael Dougherty | Warner Bros.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Director: Michael Dougherty

Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 05.31

Godzilla: King of Monsters | Michael Dougherty | Warner Bros.The franchise behind the massive lizard-like reptile leveling major cities and fighting competing monsters for domination and superiority has had its ups and downs. With more than 30 titles since 1954, it appears that the beast is finally getting some higher-level and broader respect in the film industry, but we still do not talk about the 1998 abomination. Sure, the renditions with a man inside a costume will always have a place in our hearts, but to see the character and its opponents captured with CGI and made to be as large as mountains, we are not talking about the same playing field—or even sport, for that matter—in Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters begins after the chaos from the 2014 Godzilla release, wherein the world is realizing that we are not alone, and the secret government agency MONARCH is attempting to control the rest of the discovered titans. (They all have fancy names now, like Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah.) In an attempt to communicate with the monsters, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her estranged husband, Mark (Kyle Chandler), developed a contraption that is now the sole focus of a terrorist group hellbent on world disorder. Sadly, the Russell’s daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), gets caught up in their terrible parenting skills and is brought to the forefront of multiple monster uprisings.

The most prolific issue with the 2014 production was the lack of screen time Godzilla received. Some clocked it in for as little as 11 minutes. Such is not the case with director Michael Dougherty’s endeavor, as the film comprises one gigantic altercation after another. There are times when the human element does start to become long-winded and bothersome, but give it a few more minutes, and you will have another skyscraper collapse, another out-of-this-world weapon used and another chance to cheer for the green beast. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is definitely a movie that needs to be seen on the big screen to experience that grandiose level of destruction and to hear that ear-blasting roar of victory. Hopefully gone are the days when a project of this proportion relies on terrible soundtracks and finally embraces what we have always wanted: giant monsters fighting giant monsters. It’s quite simple. –Jimmy Martin


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Film Review: X-Men: Apocalypse
Movie Reviews (June 2014)

 

Jamie Harper with candy.

As a photographer, artist, DIY artisan and an adjunct instructor at Weber State, Jamie Harper is something of a polymath in the local arts community. Starting from humble beginnings as a photography student at what is now her place of work, Harper now runs Harper Made (her vintage craft company) and has reached new heights as a photographer and artist. “In the beginning, I was making work that was very personal to me,” she says. “Now, I’m not too far from that place, but I’m starting to speak on things that are a little more universal or a shared experience.”

A key aspect of Harper’s work is her self-aware engagement with different types of media. “I really like the conceptual aspects of [photography]; it isn’t just two-dimensional or formal art,” she says, preferring work that is “performative” or “functional” over that which is strictly visual. Harper’s resulting works have been as wide-varying as a performance piece at the now-defunct CUAC where Harper built a brick wall around herself as a means of working through her troubled relationship with her sister, or a recent exhibition where participants ate photographs—one of which was a glamour-shot-like self-portrait—off of a cake. “The instantaneous viewing, then consuming, then throwing away” of this edible art piece was especially interesting to Harper.

“Let’s not be so worried about [Instagram]—it’s just a new communication tool.”

Ephemerality has become a greater focal subject for Harper, an artistic curiosity that stems from the effects of Instagram on the contemporary art world. “I’m very interested in the experiential nature that the internet provides now with consuming art,” she says. While many artists would perpetually point out the flaws in the 24-hour stories or the tiny phone screen resolution, Harper has a bit more optimism about the platform’s potential use: “Let’s not be so worried about it—it’s just a new communication tool. I like the idea of making people participate with my work through that platform—whether they want to or not.”

While Harper readily names her influences (among them Levi Jackson, Cindy Sherman and her mentor, Josh Winegar), she is equally intent on using these artists’ work as more of a springboard for her own ideas than a source for imitation. A specific example comes in the work of Richard Mosse, who famously pioneered a film technique that turns photographs of green forests pink and purple. Landscapes for Her was a recent exhibition at EZ$ where Harper displayed massive, pastel-pink landscape photos, is clearly indebted to Mosse’s work, though Harper makes a point of distancing herself from his style. Her use of pink film effects is less purely aesthetic: Instead, she uses the colors to highlight the nuanced, overtly gendered message outlined by the exhibition’s title.

“I’m making these landscapes pink to overtly indicate that women have a place within photographing the land.”

Jamie Harper
Photo: @clancycoop

On top of the larger, more arresting version of the pieces, the Landscapes for Her experience was compounded by smaller editions of the photographs meant to embody a consumerist version of Harper’s vision. The large versions were shot with a typical 4×5, full-swing land camera, a further touchpoint toward the landscape works of old that Harper wishes to build off of. Of the other side of the exhibit, Harper says that “I thought a lot about the pink tax. I pinned up 25 tampon-shaped pink bags and specifically wanted them to resemble this little bag that women carry around with feminine hygiene products.” Much of this drive comes from Harper’s view that “women are born consumers,” and Landscapes for Her aims to both understand and subvert this forced socialization.

This feminist perspective, from which Landscapes for Her was drawn, is a defining force in Harper’s work—not just in her content, but also her approach to the medium of photography at large. “The act of photographing is kind of aggressive and male,” says Harper, noting the detached way in which landscape photographers typically address their subjects. “That’s what [Landscapes for Her] is about—I’m making these landscapes pink to overtly indicate that women have a place within photographing the land,” she says, pointing out the parallel of the land’s fertility. Harper intentionally moves away from a stark presentation of Western American landscapes, instead using her unique perspective and philosophical lens to draw a meaning out of the land that she sees as missing in the landscape works of the past.

On top of a upcoming book focusing on estate sale photography, Harper hopes to continue working with EZ$ and refine the curatorial approach to her exhibitions there. As always, though, her primary goal moving forward is to  “continue to gently push,” she says, “push the medium—what I’m talking about, what needs to be talked about, push what I feel I owe the medium and the art world.” Whether it be with more adventurous photographing techniques, more demanding concepts or a greater engagement with digital media, Harper’s forward trajectory spells nothing if not innovation: “Especially as I experiment with interacting more with my viewers, I have to evolve.”


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The Illusion of Photographic Realism: Josh Winegar
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