Sunday, September 23, 2012

Feature Interview - Life Is Art: Tess Mayer

To finish this series I had the pleasure of interview the incredibly talented and lovely Tess, her images, especially her documentation of her sister, are captivating to say the least!

So here is Jess...


1. Fill me in on your background, where are you from and how did you get in to photography?

I was born in NYC but moved to a very rural area of New York when I was 11.


2. Who has influenced you the most in terms of photography?

I first realized that you could turn your own family, experiences, and locations into something that in turn effects others, that through light and composition very specific moments can be shared with.


3. What is your favourite style of photography (Self portraiture? Fashion? Documentary)?

I love portraiture. I haven't done much with photojournalism but I am constantly inspired by it and would really love to soon.

4. What is your process when taking photo's, from getting ideas to editing?

Most of my photos aren't very heavily planned out. Usually I document day by day and try to capture the mood of the moment instead of creating it. But if some more specific idea appears then I usually try to execute it that day. Editing usually only takes me 5-15 minutes per photo.

5. What are your tools of the trade?

All my digital stuff is taken with a Canon Mark II (which I love!) with either a 50mm 1.4 or 28mm 1.8 lens. I also take a lot of polaroid pictures with my wide Instax camera, and I use various $10, half broken, old film cameras that I find at thrift stores. I also made a pinhole camera that takes 35mm rolls of film that produces some interesting (though blurry) photos.


6. Where do you hope to go with your photography?

I'm not entirely sure yet… maybe photojournalist.


7. Why do you think people are drawn to photography?

It is very easy to start relating and daydreaming when you see the right photograph. The fact that it is capturing just a fraction of the second is very humbling to me. Certain photographs just cause you to reevaluate or appreciate moments more.


8. What draws you to a particular model/subject? What do you look for in a model/subject?

I look for people who aren't plagued by insecurity, which is actually pretty rare in my own age group which is why I like photographing either the very young or old.


9. Who are some other photographers you admire?

Nan Goldin, Sally Mann, Paolo Roversi, Diane Arbus.


10. What is your best tip to taking a striking photo?

To me, the most striking photos aren't just aesthetically beautiful or well composed but they have some sort of narrative woven in as well. It doesn't have to be exact, but it does have to make the viewer feel or imagine something that isn't necessarily in the photograph. I love photos that leave me thinking about them long enough that they show up in my head later on in daydreams or when I'm reading or anything like that. Anyone can take a photo of a pretty girl in a pretty location with a pretty camera, but you won't look at it twice if there is no story.


'Anyone can take a photo of a pretty girl in a pretty location with a pretty camera, but you won't look at it twice if there is no story.'

11. Your photos seem to incorporate your surroundings and the elements, is this a big part of your style?

Definitely. I live in an extremely beautiful place where there are acres of almost untouched, uninhabited land. It's almost impossible not to be inspired.


12. What is your favourite photo taken by another photographer? (Link and describe why)

This one by Nan Goldin has always struck me: . I just think it's so honest and I love how the subjects don't seem to have the camera in their minds at all.

13. What is your favourite photo you have taken? (Link and describe why)


I don't know if I have one single photo that I can completely say is my favorite, but I always end up coming back to this one when I get frustrated or want to quit. It was taken several summers ago when I first bought my (semi non-functioning) Canon AE-1 film camera. I actually think it was my first roll of film I ever shot. I don't think the photo is necessarily very interesting, but it was one of the photographs I took that shaped my desire to go into photography. It represents one of the moments that I realized my love and understanding of portraiture.

14. What are some of your favourite films, books and musicians?

Pulp Fiction, Atonement, The Reader, Cashback, A Door in the Floor, Angela's Ashes, The Things They Carried, Beirut, The Black Keys, and Arcade Fire.


15. What has been your biggest achievement so far with your photography?

I've very satisfied that I've developed a very concrete project in photographing my sister.


16. Do you think it’s hard to be original in photography? How do you keep your ideas original and fresh?

I don't think it's that difficult. Each photographer has a different perception of a person, event, or location. As long as they don't have a preconceived notion of how the person or place should look or be photographed it is can be original.


17. Which photographer do you think I should interview next and why?

Hmm… Lexi Mire, because she always has interesting concepts behind her images.


18. Do you often change a lot of the original photo in Photoshop?

I play with curves a little bit, but nothing too drastic usually.

19. Do you think you have an original style that is you own?

I think right now I steal little bits of others styles that I like, such as the high contrast in Sally Mann's work. I am not sure that I've been photographing long enough to have my own style.


20. Do you prefer studio or location?


21. If you could photograph any person alive or dead who would it be and why?

I really want to photograph a legendary author like Edgar Allan Poe or Leo Tolstoy.

22. You seem to take a lot of photos with your sister, why do you prefer this?

I know her well enough that the camera isn't an awkward block that comes between us.


23. Give us the skinny, what's the next project you've got coming up?

I have no new projects at the moment. But I hope to keep taking pictures of my sister until she's much older and perhaps make a book.

24. Which actor would play you in the film of your life?

I don't follow actors and actresses enough to know. Pretty much anyone who has brown hair and green eyes.


25. What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid?

Nothing artistic haha, I wanted to be a Veterinarian or Doctor.


So there you have the beautiful images and words of Tess Mayer!

Thank you so much Tess :)

Please see more of her amazing work on her Tumblr

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