Photography and story by Alina Tsvor
When we invited photographer Alina Tsvor to profile an artist dedicated to social impact, the first person that came to mind was her friend Anna Russett — a YouTube producer who creates empowering videos to counter the social pressures affecting women.
“No one really makes art for young girls” says Anna Russett, a Chicago-based new media artist who fills the social void by creating vlogs, tutorials, and social media art to address issues important to young women. Anna’s recent media work deconstructs issues like positive body image, birth control, and gender.
Anna begins each project by engaging with her community directly on Twitter or Snapchat and asking meaningful questions to find out the key subjects affecting their lives.
“It’s important to me that I am aware of how they feel and think about things I’m making work about.”
Even one tweet can fuel Anna’s work.
After tweeting, “Do any of you guys have a dress code? Tell me about an experience you or a friend had where you were in violation of it,” Anna received an overwhelming response:
- “i used ur video on girls being a distraction in school to talk about the sexualization of women in english class today… we talked about our experience with being called out as young girls and how that affects body image and rape culture.”
- “I love this! I’m doing a research project about how school dress codes objectify girls and teach us to accept responsibility for our peers’ lack of self control, this voiced everything I was thinking.”
Her followers’ feedback and recent news articles on the issue ultimately inspired You’re a Distraction: Dress Code Haul, a satirical haul video critiquing the sexist nature of school dress codes.
“My education had a massive impact on me and helped me think about how I can use social media to convey important messages.” Anna studied important works by Internet pioneers and groundbreaking feminists alike, which enables her to create critically-minded work grounded in a broader historical context. Her goal is to take this research and thought and make it more accessible to younger audiences.
“Vlogging allows me to be myself on camera,” Anna explains. She typically films by herself and goes off outlines and rough scripts that she makes while recording.
Anna mostly taught herself how to film and edit video work. She later finessed these skills in art school, but maintains a DIY aesthetic, creating quick and sometimes choppy edits.
One of my favorite pieces from Anna is A Labor Of Likes, a look into how feminine labor and gender as performance manifest in the digital age. Her audience responded:
- “Wish this could be broadcasted across the world with a variety of women to open this conversation up even more.”
- “Too many females feel insecure and ashamed when they shouldn’t. And then have nowhere to turn out of fear and anxieties. Making them feel alone.”
A Labor Of Likes was recently screened at Church of Templehead in Chicago as part of an evening with live performances, video screenings, and installations of media work by several female and queer-identified artists. A testament to Anna’s creative impact, the work is currently being shown online at New Media Gallery.
Uploading work to social media helps Anna continue to get feedback and integrate that into future work. “I can see how people engage with my work and that informs the next video I make.” A very unique cycle of creative inspiration.