Some photographers capture the gritty world of the streets, others take us to colorful exotic lands.Tami gives us her poetry in the form of her images.
Rfotofolio is pleased to bring you the work and words of Tami Bone.
Please tell us about yourself.
I was born in South Texas, my parents were loving and hard-working – my mother a teacher and my father a minister. They were both well-educated, although not in the arts. When I try to remember any early experiences with looking at art or talking about art, I can’t remember any, although of course films and movies were art, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.
I came to photography in a round-about way, not having studied it in college. Other than being drawn to images, and especially as a child to Life and Look magazines, I didn’t recognize my interest until I was in my early 30’s. Before that time I had studied psychology in college, and in my later 20’s was beginning to realize that I was mainly drawn to visual design, although I wasn’t sure exactly what to do with that interest. It wasn’t until I happened to walk by a store-front that had black and white portraiture, that I realized that’s exactly what I wanted to pursue. So, over the course of about ten years I took classes here and there as I could, so learn the technical aspects of photography, falling in love with darkroom work, and also starting a small portrait business. At this time my three children were very young, so anything I did photo-related felt pieced together between their needs. Still, I was able to get a good technical foundation, and absolutely loved photographing children. I was also able to photograph freely in their schools, in a photo-journalistic style that I loved, and was fortunate to have most of the images published in a small suburban newspaper. This all took place in the 90’s in the Dallas, TX area.
In 2001, my family moved to Austin, and at that time I was wanting to move beyond portraiture and into doing more personal work. I took the opportunity of the move as a chance to make that change, and also to start the learning curve of all things digital photography and printing. I’d said I’d never go in that direction, but I had the chance to see a few pigment prints at Fotofest in 2000, and knew instantly that I must learn pigment printing, although learning has been anything but instant. It is a constant process, although one I’m happy to have embarked on.
So over the last twelve years, I’ve worked diligently to hone my printing skills, taking classes at the community college and a few workshops here and there. In the meantime, I also have worked on my vision, understanding more and more what it means to see and embrace a particular point of view. In hindsight now I realize that this particular view or vision has always been there, and I feel fortunate to have gotten to the place where I can grasp what it is. I hope that makes sense. It seems that the business of life, of making a living, of raising a family and caring for others, at least in my case, has taken precedence, and I do feel lucky to have lived long enough to “see what I am seeing.” For me, being able to do that takes emotional energy and especially emotional space. It feels like a gift to have gathered enough of both to move forward with art-making.
One of the things I’ve learned in my journey of being an artist is that making art seems to parallel personal growth. I don’t know if that’s the case for everyone – perhaps I’ve just had more growing to do. Still, I find it fascinating, the changes that come about or the realizations that come to light, thru art-making.
Well, this is a long way of saying that art-making didn’t come early or easily. And it is something that I feel must be fed and practiced and practiced, hopefully as long as I live. I can’t imaging not being able to express myself thru my art. Another thing that I must mention is that I get very excited when I see others doing the same; here we are, all similar in many of our experiences, but then, this highly individual work comes forth and it’s there that the very personal points of view can be seen. I love seeing other artists’ work and especially when I can hear or read where that work comes from – what is motivating that work. It seems that whatever “the thing” is – the impetus of doing the work, it’s been there all along. It makes me wonder and smile about the mystery of art-making and the connection to our deepest selves.
As far as current projects, I’ve been focused on my Mythos project for the past few years. In this project I’m exploring memories, hopes, dreams and impressions made during my childhood, which was one of deep curiosity and wonder as to how and why I came to be here. This sense of wonder was such an integral part of my early years – it was always “right there”. So in Mythos, I’m exploring and expressing those feelings, those wonderings, and the sense of mystery that was so central to my life, and of course at the core of all of life. And although there was a sense of loss, the overriding feelings were ones of being thankful that I was here, and thankful that I could feel the mystery. It’s difficult to articulate even now. I guess that’s why I’m doing the Mythos project.
That said, I decided to call it Mythos because of the understanding that our stories, both true and imagined, are quite powerful and in turn shape our lives, until finally, they become our lives. For me, this understanding had a special meaning because I realized early on that I had a choice in how I saw my own particular situation, and I choice to see it with empathy, understanding and love. I hope this is making sense, and also hope that it doesn’t sound too melodramatic. I honestly felt very fortunate to be alive, and fortunate to experience being here on this earth. This was a feeling that was with me most of the time, as if I sensed how precarious it was that I was here.
Anyway, that’s what Mythos is about and that’s what I’m trying to express thru the images. As far as my process goes, I make a lot of notes on fragments of memories or remembered feelings, and I work from those to come up with ideas for images, so all of the images are planned, although things always morph and change. I often become aware of something in the process of developing an image that I didn’t realize in the beginning. That’s part of the personal growth I was referring to earlier.
Also, a few years ago I had a turning point where I decided to stop worrying about “photographic rules”, and to do whatever I possibly could to express what I needed to express, which meant giving myself the freedom to collage my images, or rather embrace photomontage. This has been a wonderful, although sometimes painstaking thing.
So I work using Lightroom, and Photoshop, although sparingly. My process is straightforward; I photograph using a normal lens, out of focus, and arrange the pieces to make the final image.
I have no plans to end this project anytime soon – too many ideas rattling around my head, so will continue on. I wish that I worked faster than I do, but so far I haven’t been able to speed up the process of having an idea and seeing it thru. What really seems to slow me down is that the images each need to evolve, and always, always they go back to the drawing board a few times before being let go. Maybe that’s simply how it’s meant to be.
What is a perfect photographic day?
Okay, on a perfect photographic day – wow, wouldn’t that be nice! For me it would involve several things, and probably most important would be having the physical space of time, as well as, the emotional space needed to relax and let the creative process begin. I think that having alone-time, without needing to meet anyone else’s expectations or without having to take care of anyone is what helps me the most, to the point that it feels like a gift. Once that’s in place, anything can happen.
I should mention something, I’m really not great at photographing in places I don’t know or don’t feel some kind of connection to, and I’m not too good at travel photography, unless it involves the ocean or some body of water. I do take snapshots with my camera phone, but to really get into making personal work, I need to feel something of a connection to a place, some sense of belonging. I used to see this is a shortcoming, but now I just accept it for what it is.
Last thing on the perfect photographic day, when I have that unencumbered stretch of time along with the emotional space, that’s when time seems to stop or not matter and thoughts or more likely feelings flow, and hopefully creativity happens. Of course those perfect days are rare, so instead I grab moments wherever I can.
Please tell us about some of the photographers that you admire and how their work influences your own work.
I admire so many artists and their work, as well as many forms of expression, whether it be photography, painting, writing, film-making, poetry, music. As for lasting impressions, a few that spring to mind are Keith Carter’s photographs, Mary Oliver’s poetry and John Steinbeck’s writing. These artists help us to see far past what can be seen.
Is there a certain work of art that made a lasting impression on you?
Recently, thanks to Anthony Bannon and the Burchfield Penney Art Center, I’ve become acquainted with the work of Charles Burchfield. I love this work! And so much so that I’ve purchased three books. In one of the books, Oh My Heavens, Anthony Bannon says in the acknowledgment, “For what sense matters art, if not to encourage our gaze toward ideas far larger than the surface, to direct our vision upward, to see if we can soar?” That’s what Charles Burchfield’s work does to me – it makes me feel like I can soar.
If no one saw your work would you still create it?
Yes, because there is something inside that keeps pushing, the proverbial burning desire. Recently I’ve been thinking about why I make art, why I push myself and why I am compelled to make work when there are already so many incredible artists. I think that answer has to do with finding or experiencing transcendence. We talk about seeing beauty and significance in the ordinary. That’s a recurring theme in art making. I think that what we’re really saying is that we want to experience more, feel more, see more, be more – to be lifted out of ourselves. That’s the crux of it for me, to be lifted out of myself. So that’s what it is; that longing for the rare but wonderful moment of “yes, that’s it, that’s what I’m trying to say with my work.”
How do you over come a creative block ?
Blocks are tough. For me they usually go hand in hand with fear, and when that happens I know that I need to get the fear out-of-the-way so that I can relax and do the work. I can get seriously knotted up inside. I think of fear as a big scary ferocious beast, but one that can be soothed with empathy and kindness. It’s kind of funny, but when I think of this beast in detail, he’s ferocious at the center but soft around the edges. Anyway, I imagine myself sitting at a table with the beast and having a conversation. I realize this probably sounds silly, but the process helps to unkink my thoughts, and seems to help me ease into a better emotional place. I know that as artists that we all have fears. I don’t think of myself as a fearful person, but when it comes to art making and showing art, I do experience a fair amount of fear.
Would you tell us about your workspace?
It’s a small room off of the kitchen and dining room of my house, and really, I wish it was bigger and more separated from my house, but it’s what I’ve got, so I make it work. On one wall I’ve got a deep built-in desk and cabinets where I keep my computer and printer, and on another wall I have shelves with boxes of paper and supplies. In the center of the room I have an old pine table that is usually piled with books and prints, and a cat or two. When I first set up the room I had shelf ledges put on the walls to hold framed pieces, but what I really use them for is taping prints up to keep track of what I’m doing. I’m also experiencing an empty nest for the first time, and I’ve turned one of my kid’s rooms into an upstairs studio and storage room. It’s good to have a place to keep framed work and to be able to lay out work when I’m getting ready for a show. I’m planning to set up a corner in the room for photographing, too, which is new because I almost always photograph outside.
Where can we see your work, and would you like to share any upcoming projects ?
Yes, I have an upcoming show, Magic and Myth, with Fran Forman at the new Photo Methode Gallery in the Flatbed Building, in Austin, Texas. I’m very excited, not only because Photo Methode Gallery is off to a great start, but also because of the energy and vibe around the Flatbed Building, with Gallery Shoal Creek recently moving in, and with the coinciding show of Josephine Sacabo‘s work. The area is shaping up to be a great destination for people who want to see art in Austin. My work can also be seen at the Susan Spiritus Gallery in Newport Beach, CA ( 2013)
Any stories about your work you would like to share?
Well, I also want to say how thrilled I am to be showing work with my good friend, Fran Forman. The side-story is that we met a few years ago while attending Photolucida in Portland, OR. Fran was hanging out with the east coast crowd, and I was with the southerners. I’d seen Fran’s work online and knew that I wanted to get to know her better, so one evening during the event, when people were gathered in the hotel bar area, I got up from my table of southerners and walked over to Fran’s table of northerners and convinced her to join me back at my table. I’m so glad she was willing because she’s become a wonderful friend, and we’ve had a lot of laughs over the north and the south thing.
Thank you Tami for sharing your words and your art.
To learn more about the work of Tami Bone please visit her page at Tami Bone.