One week ago Erica Hinson Denny posted a photograph on her Flickr page entitled “Katie, Dooley.2.” It is an image of a woman staring into the camera lens, holding a clay puppet on a wooden stick. That description seems pretty lame. Seems mediocre. But, maybe, because Erica Hinson Denny took and posted this photograph, it would be considered an ideal image of a woman staring, holding a puppet on a stick.
The first time I saw Erica’s photography I was doing research in an attempt to perfect visual, hyper-stylized film aesthetics and found a series of party photographs on D.C.’s hipster blog/company website, Brightest Young Things. I immediately googled the credited photographer, Artfisch. Within fifteen minutes I found the Flickr and Facebook page of Erica Hinson Denny.
I spent Thanksgiving in the mountains of western Maryland. I didn’t have internet access on Wednesday or Thursday. On Friday, I opened my browser and logged on to Facebook at around 3pm. The first “Top News” Newsfeed post I saw contained “RIP” attached to a photograph with Artfisch’s “signature” multiple exposure photography style. I felt something like a sheet of fire sweep across my head. I began to sweat. The nerve endings on my skin began to sting. I felt involuntary muscle contractions. I clicked a link to Erica’s Facebook page and found her wall filled with lengthy posts that commemorated her personality, amicability, how people enjoyed spending time with her and how her work affected them.
I scrolled down and clicked “other posts” 5~7x. It seemed like a micro-famous person’s birthday. Every post had been submitted in the past three days. Most of them said “rest in peace.”
I stared at the “Write something” prompt on Erica’s facebook wall for roughly six minutes. I couldn’t think of one word that seemed adequate to begin a sentence that could convey how her work affected me.
Of the many party and fashion photographers I am familiar with, Artfisch was my favorite. Her hyper-stylized long and multiple exposure club photography is different from all others I have seen. For years it affected a vague feeling in me to want to be her, and a distinct feeling to want to be her friend, to see her at work and to be the subject of at least one of her photographs.
That isn’t possible anymore.
Today I felt something similar to how it felt to first see Dash Snow’s photography posthumously. But unlike Dash, who died of a drug overdose, and whose art was famous in his extensive New York City milieu and because of his wealthy family background, Artfisch died of a sudden asthma attack [a disorder she had been affected by all her life], was not famous outside of her few Baltimore, DC, and Pennsylvania cliques and was a wife and the mother of five children between ages fourteen and five, but her work was no less prolific, distinct or mesmerizing, to me.
In the underground art world authenticity and intent seems to be what garners intense admiration. Artfisch did not photoshop her images, a large number of them were simply photographs of herself after a new haircut, tattoo, or slight change due to age, but thousands of her images are on Flickr are of partygoers, of her children, of friends, food, fashion and artful dashes of cheerful macabre. Of DJs spinning, street artists working, people in costume and elaborate long-exposure light writing. She photographed because of an intense interest, motivation and fascination for engaging images.
I feel vague regret because I am now unable to be a part of Artfisch’s life outside of her having once accepted my friend request. I really like her work. I want people to be aware of this.
Erica's last Facebook update said "we are flowers of one garden."