Quad Citians have never seen anything like photographer Dasha Denger’s latest venture: The Editorial QC. Imagine if the sensibilities of Harper’s Bazaar met MidWestern pragmatism and gave birth to a new curiosity.
This improbable creation is possible because Dasha and likeminded artists have chosen to believe in the industry now germinating in the area. At this very moment, designers and doers are working to bring their arts – fashion and fashion photography – into the local scene.
The spectacular first issue, released on March 15 of this year, featured local artists and backdrops as well as work by international photographers. For Issue No. 2, themed “All That Glitters,” Dasha says to expect more bright palettes and an attitude of fun throughout; all are welcome at the June 15th release party at 6 p.m., Rozz-Tox in Rock Island – complete with live music and Secret Birthday Raffle.
Having been born and spent a rough total of 22 years in Iowa, I will assume that I am a typical Iowan, and thus, will assume my knowledge of fashion and fashion photography is typical. While I know I like what I see in The Editorial QC, the aesthetic still seems exotic.
I asked Dasha to formally define “fashion photography,” which will be the main focus of the magazine: “Fashion Photography is a combination of ideas, artists and huge amounts of skill and talent being put together collaboratively into a final ‘photoshoot.’”
As she writes in her introduction to the first issue: “Fashion photography is not about clothes, money, or status.” This concept is new to me. Fashion photography, in my mind, has always been about what’s on the runways of Paris, Milan, and New York – faraway places that people visit once, maybe twice in a lifetime.
But there is more to it than that. There is movement and reality, as showcased in the section titled, “Around Town.” I’m a big fan of the shots from Analog Arcade. Dasha loves color and contrast – she loves to pull the tones off the page into your rods and cones so you feel the life of the image.
It’s effective. She’s included a photograph, “Rock Island No. 3,” in this section that was taken at Rozz-Tox. The model is decked out in cherry red, lounging on an old maraschino couch. This same couch, worn-out and duct-taped together, went out into the alley last fall. That photograph – with all the light and energy and vividness of reality – makes me miss that ugly fucking couch.
Dasha’s eye finds the forgotten corners of Rock Island and the overlooked aesthetic of Davenport. She shows us that fashion photography can be at home in the Quad Cities.
Likewise, the Quad Cities is ready for fashion photography – locals may just not realize it, yet. Dasha herself says she’s noticed a renewed local awareness of lifestyle photography; “however, it still seems it’s mostly portraits or wedding photography that is bringing the most interest.”
There’s nothing wrong with these styles of photography, but fashion photography is something different. It celebrates body and self, as featured in “Flutter This Way,” the second section that features work by Dasha. My favorite compositions involve power poses where the model is clearly more focused on herself and her environment. The model is either disinterested in the camera or looks directly at it, almost challengingly.
“My main hope is that even if people do not practice such art,” Dasha says, “they will at least learn to understand and appreciate it.”
Dasha herself leads by example, offering a forum for artists such as local designer Jennifer Horvath and photographer Kimberly Dam, whose Greek Travel photography spread is at the center of the first issue. The series captures the imagination and begs closer examination. The first image is full of the inhabitants of a cluster of stark Mediterranean structures, while subsequent images depict the same desert-like pods devoid of people. (Almost – I got out a magnifying glass and found one on page 37. Can you see her? Let’s play Where’s Waldo!)
Beyond contributing to the Quad Cities’ local art and culture, Dasha sees this venture as a logical “next step” in her career.
“To be quite frank… after shooting professionally for almost 10 years and [not being] taken very seriously as a professional artist,” Dasha says, “I am giving the free collaborative work a break for time being… it is time to start putting myself to a higher standard. And putting my potential clients to a higher standard too.”
With that in mind, we have a lot to look forward to in the next three planned issues. Following the Issue #2 (“All That Glitters”) release, the third issue is planned for release on September 15th, about which Dasha says: “we have not yet come up with an exact theme but it will definitely feature more subtle, warmer and milder tones with more on location shoots featuring some wonderful QC talent as well as international talent as before.”
I can only infer that Issue #4’s release date will be on (or around) December 15th. Beyond that? Dasha is both confident and unassuming about her vision of what The Editorial may become.
“I can definitely see this project eventually operating as an actual business, having a small staff & a base office as well as printing connections in China,” Dasha says. “However, for now it’s but a small dream to get into the hands of those who really like the idea and I am going to stick to that first.“
Don’t be fooled by her lack of pretension, however. She was serious about that “holding myself to a higher standard” thing, and there is an idealistic passion about her that is contagious.
She says: “The Photographer is the painter, the poet, the mathematician and the welder.” Painter of light, builder of stories and scenes, Euclidean lyricist, etc. Does that not make you want to go paint something right friggin now?
To recap: be at the Issue #2 release party, Thursday June 15, at 6 p.m. at Rozz-Tox in Rock Island, Illinois. This time around, there will only be a couple of issues available to purchase, as most of Dasha’s stock is on pre-sale orders. And be on the lookout for future issues in stores this fall!