North Texas Daily

Thin Line featured photographer captures fresh perspective on local Denton life, environment

Thin Line featured photographer captures fresh perspective on local Denton life, environment

Thin Line featured photographer captures fresh perspective on local Denton life, environment
May 05
13:00 2023

Describing what makes Denton, Texas unique may be hard to express in words, but Dentonite and photographer Mike Ferreira chose to speak through his lens instead.

Three years in the making, Ferreira’s book, “This is Denton,” features 121 medium-format-film images, each focusing on a different aspect of the city — from the “oddities to the mundane.” This past weekend, the Thin Line Festival showcased 20 of his Denton-centric prints at its first full-scale photography gallery since 2019 in the Sunago Bell, an event venue in the downtown Denton Wells Fargo building. 

“We wanted a piece to kind of help boost some visibility and local buy-in, and Mike was a perfect fit,” said Joshua Butler, Thin Line Festival founder and director. “I knew there would be an audience for it, [and] another way in which it really felt perfect is we were going to be in the Sunago Bell, so I can exhibit his work right next to a window that was giving you a 200-foot view of that same location, so it felt very meta, which was cool.”

Originally from San Antonio, Texas, Ferreira started dabbling in photography as a freshman in high school with his first DSLR camera. He said he was inspired to pursue videography due to his interest in skateboarding videos but was later attracted to the still side of photography. 

Ferreira spent about half his time as a photographer learning and familiarizing himself with the craft, but it wasn’t until he moved to Denton eight years ago that he said his career began, and he fell in love with the Denton community.

“[Denton] just has character that is hard to find in other spots,” Ferreira said. “That was the selling point when I first got here. My first night, I saw a lot of things that I’ve never seen anywhere else, whether it’s the architecture, the housing, the people — also a lot of local music, and that’s what really drew me in.” 

After witnessing how local businesses shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic affected the community, Ferreira said he knew he wanted to preserve as much of Denton as possible. However, it wasn’t until receiving an “extreme outpour and connection” from locals for his photo of the Opera House on The Square, that he decided to delve into his first large-scale project.

“I felt like it was my duty,” Ferreira said. “I felt like it was the first time I realized how special it was to people, and then I decided to make this a project. I needed to make this a book.”

Despite positive responses to his work, Ferreira said he almost quit entirely, giving up on the book for at least eight months throughout the process. He said the project became overwhelming as he dealt with family issues and mental health struggles all while working a separate full-time job. However, his close friend and fellow photographer Dylan Rocamontes helped push Ferreira to finish the project. 

“I was like the cartoon angel on his shoulder,” Rocamontes said. “He was pretty on the fence about [his book], and I kind of had to push him off the cliff, metaphorically speaking. Just about every time I see him, I say trust your process – don’t overthink your process to where it’s not your process anymore.”

Ferreira said many of the book’s images do not depict typical Denton landmarks. Instead, he focused on the quirks and aspects of the town that he was originally drawn to when he first moved to the city. 

“He wants to show people why looking at something you see every day with a different perspective is worth it,” Rocamontes said. “What excites me is I’m finally getting to see [the book] manifest.”

From the beginning proofs to the final sequencing of the images, Rocamontes said he loved watching Ferreira’s work culminate into a finished product.

“I learned that it is much more than just taking a photo of a place,” Ferreira said. “Designing the book from the ground up — I did myself, which I wanted to do because I think Denton is truly the mecca of DIY. So, trial and error were definitely my middle name for a while, but I am happy with how it all turned out.”

“This is Denton” is currently on pre-order through May 4 and is set to release on May 27 at Recycled Books in Downtown Denton, where Ferreira will be signing copies.

“The first time I received feedback from the project was from a few Dentonites that told me my photos brought them a new perspective on where they live,” Ferreira said. “The photos brought them a familiarity […] to where it’s almost like looking at it with fresh eyes, even though they’ll be passing this location on their way to work every day. That’s the biggest compliment I could have ever received for that work.”

Featured Image Local photographer Mike Ferreira poses with his book, “This Is Denton,” a collection of medium-format film photos of unique and important spots in Denton on April 30, 2023. Matt Iaia

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Sarah Hogan

Sarah Hogan

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