Transcript of Tamara Dean – Nature

TAMARA DEAN: For me, nature is home. It's where I feel safe. I go into the bush. And I feel like I'm in the right place. To be able to just walk out my front door and be able to enter a forest or a body of water and to create work in my own environment and to see it through new eyes each time I do it is just such a privilege.

My name's Tamara Dean. I'm a photo media artist. And I work with photography, installation, and moving image. I actually chose to study photography as a unit when I was in high school as a unit at TAFE. So we didn't have photography in our art department at school. So I did study art all the way through high school. And photography was part of that.

When I first went to University I went to the College of Fine Arts. And I studied studio art there for a year. But after that year, I didn't really feel like I was ready to keep going with my arts degree. And I ended up changing to a visual communications degree out at the University of Western Sydney.

And it actually took me quite a few years to come back to photography. I thought I was going to be an animator and an illustrator. I majored in illustration. And it took kind of working-- I was working on a magazine as an assistant designer. And did a night course in photography at the National Art School. And it reminded me of how much I loved photography.

And so what I started doing was photographing my friends and photographing the protest movement that was around me. And my friends were going to. And when I was photographing protests, I recognised that the professional photographers, the photojournalists I saw working just they just looked so proficient at what they were doing.

And whilst I learnt, I guess, the creative aspects of photography through my various degrees, I hadn't really got a very strong grounding in the technical part. And so I thought I'd approach The Sydney Morning Herald, which had a couple of photographers whose work I really admired, to see if I could do some work experience there. And that work experience led to a traineeship and then led to a 13-year career as a photojournalist in photo-documentary. Yeah.

The pivotal point where I started focusing on my art practice again was when I had my first child. So what I did was I began by doing a series called 'Motherhood'. And I had a number of friends who were going through the early stages of motherhood at the same time. And so I could bring my daughter along. And I sort of understood the rhythms of that time. And so I was able to create images.

And as a point of difference to the photojournalism, with this series, I actually started taking some control of the elements in the photograph. So I would set up a camera in an area where there might be nice light. And I'd get people to enter that area. And do whatever they're doing naturally. But there was certain, I guess, elements of staging that I started taking control of. And I guess, that was a bridge in a way from my photojournalism work to my art practice where, in the end, I have taken control of sort of everything.

So since I've been in self-isolation, I've been trying to continue to make work. And that's involved using myself, given I don't have any models that I can work with. And I guess, in a way, I'm creating more playful images. And they touch on the seriousness of the isolation, but they also just the act of photographing myself and having to run back and forth with the self-timer, it's a bit silly. And it's a bit funny.

So I kind of head out onto the block with my camera. And more often than not don't know exactly what I'm going to do. So this is where I set up my camera for the shot of me tumbling through the landscape. I had my camera trained here. And I'd put it onto the timer setting. And then I'd quickly run down. And place myself in the landscape. And so I did that all the way up here, a whole lot of different ones. And pieced it together at the end.

To begin with, there was a little crevice sort of underneath a very prickly bush that I put myself in. And then I went back to the camera, have a look on the back of the camera, see how that works. And through the process of actually doing that, I came to realise that there could be this interesting way of moving through the landscape. And if I multiplied my body in post-production, it could look like a whole lot of people moving through the landscape.

And I started down in that bush. And then I moved up through the landscape where there was a tree trunk. And I thought that could work quite well to sort of look like I'm tumbling over.

And as I started building on this idea and imagining, I kind of got this feeling. You know, when I go out, when I've gone out on those short periods during the self-isolation, I sort of feel like, you know, you don't know where the virus is. And I'm sort of fleeing from this invisible threat. And I thought that kind of could work quite nicely with me sort of running through the landscape kind of from this invisible threat. And so I thought this sort of sense of tumbling down the hill could work quite well.

But it gives you an idea of how a scene, which is quite still, and it doesn't have a lot of energy into it. By putting my figure in there and moving it throughout the image, I'm starting to create a narrative. And the culmination of that little part of the shoot ended up being the image I created was this image, which I made in Photoshop.

So ultimately, I've got that locked off camera on a tripod so that it remains in the same spot. And I've been able to use Photoshop to copy myself out of each of the images and paste them into one using essentially that natural backdrop as a backdrop. And ultimately, leading to this image, which kind of has this sort of energy and a sort of fantastic element to it where I'm sort of tumbling and looking like-- yeah, it just sort of has a playfulness, but also a sense of foreboding for me.

And I've manipulated the colors a little bit. I started with quite a green hue. And I mean, I'm really inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite painters. And often in the paintings that I adore, there's this sort of magenta, this red that comes up through the shadows. And that's what I've aimed for in the final image.

Whilst I created this image, which had a very particular way about it, I also tried out a whole lot of other things that didn't work. And I think it's really important to experiment. And often, you know, there can be the most amazing things that come out of that sort of experience.

The environment has been of paramount importance to me for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, I wrote a letter to the council about my concerns about what was happening in the environment. When I finished high school, I went and protested forests being logged.

And since I left The Herald and have focused more on my art practice, it's become a time for me where I realized I was able to use my voice in a way, my vision as my voice. The first step is really trying to create works that make people question and think about humans in relation to nature. And the fundamental point really I'm trying to make with the works now, and I have been for a few years, is that humans are a part of nature. We can't continue to see ourselves as sitting outside nature. To do that is to our own detriment.

And if we can start to see ourselves as a part of something that is living and organic, and, you know, we rely on nature to live, I guess my work now is sort of trying to make that point in different ways.



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