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Meet Anthony DeSanto

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anthony DeSanto.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Anthony. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was always creative as a kid, but I never saw myself pursuing the arts. Throughout high school, I only took one art class but spent my spare time working at the local library and doing a lot of collage and illustration using discarded books and magazines. I entered community college with an interest in hospitality, and that quickly changed to digital media when I transferred to a university. It wasn’t until my first photo class where my potential was really tapped into, and with some recommendations by friends and faculty, I made a shift to pursue a studio art BFA with a focus on photography.

I found that a photographic practice provided mental therapy, and photo history/theory began to answer questions and affirm assumptions I had for a long time, as well as provoke new questions for further research. I also found that the further I progressed through my program, the more confident I was in my growing skillset. I’m very grateful to the few friends I made along the way, who have thrown me into the art world and watched me thrive.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think my road was a bit smoother than some, but definitely a rough road nonetheless… I’m lucky to have a family that encourages my vision of personal growth.

Finances and access are usually the biggest struggles for most artists – so much of my early artwork has come out of my bedroom with borrowed cameras. I wasn’t creating as heavily prior to going to university, so entering a studio surrounded by lifelong makers can be both frustrating and discouraging – especially when the work they make is so different than your own. The journey became more clear when I put my entire body and soul into the art world – thinking less about myself in relation to my peers and going to gallery openings, traveling to see famous work, listening to artist talks online, and being in a book always. I still struggle a lot with networking and the social aspect of navigating the art world, but the atmosphere of solitude I create for myself helped to foster uninhibited growth on my own terms, which was needed for me to get to that place of confidence in my own work and my own vision.

Tell us about your work. What do you do, what do you specialize in?
The short answer is that I’m a conceptual photographer. I create work that investigates the image in relation to the many aspects of our lived experience.

I love the history and theory of photography, and I love investigating the multitude of uses that an image has within our lives. When starting with photography I mastered the DSLR, creating surreal imagery rooted in collage. I reject the heavily staged, clear and composed image and currently do most of my photographic work using a 35mm point and shoot. There’s something about the immediacy and closeness of this kind of image that calls to me… perhaps its the creation of art from chance and direct observation (as opposed to staged, composed shoots), or the images conceptual similarity to the phone photo, which I also am quite fond of. I have a large archive of phone photos.

My images are best viewed in relation to each other. These images find themselves in print, sculpture and artist books, of which I am working on my fourth one. I have such a mass of questions and opinions about the world, that I have to use a heavy archive of imagery to go back in time to challenge or address these claims. I investigate conflicts such as male gaze, man versus time, man versus nature, man versus self, and man versus digital culture under the capitalist system.

What are you striving for, what criteria or markers have you set as indicators of success?
Success depends heavily on the systems we operate under. As a black, gay male in America, success can seem as limited as getting the bills paid or simply surviving. My success is unattainable – because I equate my success with the knowledge I gain and the love I share, and those will never reach capacity. Money comes and goes, and so do opportunities – so I try to not think about them as much and keep closer goals in mind, continuing to create within whatever confines I am facing. Maybe today, I’ll open my computer. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll apply for a show or just watch an artist talk. As long as I don’t stop thinking about art and focus on the next step, I know I’m on my own path to success, wherever it’s going.

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