The famous photographer Ansel Adams once said of New Mexico that it was “the most completely beautiful place I have ever seen.” Adams’ sentiment has been shared by other famous photographers over the years, with many coming here to shoot at one point or another, including Diane Arbus, Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Annie Liebowitz, to name a few.
It should come as no surprise, then, that with the radical democratization of visual art afforded by the internet, and especially by Instagram, in recent years there has been a blossoming of photographic talent native to this state, as gifted local photographers find audiences online. In the past, such photographers would have needed connections in the big art centers of the world in order to reach this sort of following.
What follows are short biographies and sample photos from two such photographers, the first installment in a series where we’ll highlight local artists and photographers who’ve found devoted organic audiences online and without traditional management or marketing.
You won’t find Taos’ Tanner Ausome Williams rubbing elbows with the rich art crowd up north, or anywhere really. Where you will find him? Hanging out with his muddy three-legged dog in their tiny off-the-grid one-room adobe house with the composting toilet, on the outskirts of town; slinging beers as a barkeep at Taos Mesa Brewing, where he cheerfully gabs with the locals and rarely talks about himself or his artwork; and most of all, roaming around northern New Mexico with his camera, taking pictures.
The caption he wrote on a recent profile selfie he posted to Facebook summed up Williams’ pared-down lifestyle and artistry: “All you kids need to make sure you stay in school and study hard. That way you can get a degree from a good college. Otherwise you could end up like this guy. A happy underemployed bum with too much spare time on his hands. Remember there is safety in complacency. This sort of freedom could cause the urge to strike out on dangerous adventures. Wandering aimlessly around the world like some sort of crazy person. Living in comfortable squalor on some godforsaken piece of land, all alone, and surrounded by nothing but magnificent scenery. Living in a house with no running water, and having to depend solely on the abundant rays of sunshine blasting the earth every second to power your household needs. Seldom being able to shower, and always questioning whether or not you smell good enough to go out in public.”
The city of Taos recently caught wind of Williams’ work and, to his great surprise, purchased some of his photos to put on banners to hang around town. Williams shrugs off the attention, saying that his own existence is his art, and that photography is just a means for capturing parts of that deliberative performance along the way.
Rio Rancho’s Michael Danzer is a home inspector by day, a job for which, yes, he sometimes has to take photos. But during his free time you will find this sensitive soul traversing the empty landscapes of New Mexico in search of the perfect moment, as he uses photography as a means of exploring the notion of time.
“I like to take pictures because I think it’s important to remember the good experiences you’ve had, to capture that moment in time,” he told Weekly Alibi in a recent interview. “I like that each photo is unique, and that you can never capture the same moment twice.”
Like Williams, Danzer said he never really thought of himself as a photographer, more like a guy who loved to take pictures. But then people began sharing his photos and complimenting him so much he was forced to admit, yeah, he probably was a photographer after all.
“I only got my first camera a year-and-a-half ago,” said Danzer. “There is so much I’m still learning about photography. At first it was a struggle just to use the camera. Now I take it everywhere I go. It has become a part of me. I believe that if you love something enough, and practice often, it sort of becomes natural.”
Danzer is a lover of history, and says the purpose of art is to make others happy and to inspire them.
Do you have an amazing New Mexico Instagram artist you think we should know about? Please send us an email with a link to their handle, at firstname.lastname@example.org.