I’m Donald Semken @Tachobelle. My photography is a tool for me to explore experience, and construct meaning and value. A lot of my content explores the idea of self expression, and how the image we create of ourselves shifts and evolves over time.
Taking up photography around 12 years ago, my very straight, white male view of the world was exponentially broadened by a hunger to expand the horizons of subject matter, taking club photos at Burlesque nights, along with queer friendly and queer nightclubs. This required not only stepping out of my comfort zone, but also building trust, and respect with my subjects, particularly in spaces where people may feel as vulnerable as they are celebrated. In addition, my other interests including street photography, techno, car culture, and the modified car scene never really abated. This resulted in my photography being pushed in disparate directions, with no singular focus or view.
Eventually I resolved to share diversified content, to challenge the idea of photography being bookmarked by strict, socially acceptable bookmarks, and to celebrate the multidimensional world around me. Sexuality is only one small part of my work, but it is the component I have been punished for. My art is myself at my most vulnerable. What I decide to share is a reflection of who I have been and who I am and what I am trying to make sense of.
Shadowbanning has been mentally fatiguing and exhausting to rationalise. has Shadowbanning has become a way for platforms to systematically devalue your art, and your person. It took me years to find the courage and an approach to the dissemination of my content. Once I found my voice, my followers and genuine, meaningful interactions began to accelerate, until some point a few months ago, when interactions fell sharply, and followers ground to a halt. This is when I realised I had been shadowbanned. Unfortunately I am not willing to compromise in my content to conform to ill defined rules and algorithms.
Whilst I have considered other platforms, they simply do not have the critical mass and reach of Instagram.
We are entering into unchartered territory. The systematic devaluation of certain content, and demotion of artists that incorporate sexuality, along with the dominance of Instagram could result in a number of outcomes. It could sway the content we generate to conform to a standard, or it could drive the prospect of art being removed from the platform and being disseminated via more traditional means, such as print. Alternatively, the shadowban could become an important thematic and catalyst in itself, to be played with and explored. Whilst I am not happy with the shadowban and the impact it has had on me, what is says about the world, society and media, is quite interesting in itself. The shadowban in itself is open to subversion.
How we rationalise these changes and how our art evolves to embrace them will be our own prerogative, not social media’s. Perhaps we should be a little more courageous in asking ourselves how we value Instagram and Facebook, rather than how these platforms value us. Perhaps the shadowban in itself will become the impetus for new art, and new voices to challenge Facebook, Instagram, and their place in the world.
WORDS & PHOTOS Donald Semken @tachobelle image is of Bettie BangBang