Monday, September 30, 2013

Tamara Reynolds

Tamara Reynolds graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree and continues to develop personal projects, one of which was exhibited at the Nashville Parthenon in 2009 entitled Nashville’s Soul. Currently she is working on a photographic project entitled Southern Route that recently made the Photo Lucida Critical Mass 2013 Finalist List and a representative image of the series made the “Selected” to AI-AP 29 Photography Annual.

She is represented by RepGirl. You may view more of her work at and

Ashley Kauschinger: How did you begin your series, Southern Route? 

Tamara Reynolds:
 While traveling the back roads of the south I saw many things that were a time warp of sorts and very nostalgic. I have been sorry to see some of the South’s unique flavor disappearing (many cities are becoming generic and homogenized), but then I also felt relief for the changes. Some things were heart warming and comforting to see, some things shocking. I felt an urgency to record and understand what the south is/was to me. I am a collector of many things and I have this belief that collecting can capture, stopped, and possessed time.

AK: Do you have a complicated relationship with the south? Has this work expanded your ideas of the south?

TR: As my statement suggests I no longer feel conflicted because I do accept that the relationship is complicated. The work has given me more appreciation for the south’s beauty, even in its brokenness. Where it (the people, the culture) lacks in sophistication, it shines in its common sense of life.
The experience of talking with everyone I met along the road, thinking about the work’s direction, reading books and listening to history lectures on the South have enlarged my view and helped me appreciate it more deeply than ever before. I don’t know if it was this project that created this affinity or just my maturing naturally that created more compassion for the South and life in general?

AK: What was the process like of finding your subjects and locations? Did it happen naturally? Do you work alone? How long do you spend with each subject, etc?

My process is sometimes methodical but mostly free flowing. I did not purposely go out to find my subjects or locations in many cases. As the project started taking shape I would look for what might help define my feelings but mostly I photographed what moved me along the way. I travel alone and much of my work is alone and contemplative as mentioned earlier. I work best undistracted, unencumbered and free to come and go as I please. But shooting alone puts me in an emotionally vulnerable place. I find comfort in shooting and connecting with people. I also love the tension/adrenaline rush/stress of meeting new people, exploring new places. It is a love/hate relationship working and shooting alone. It gives me the freedom I’ve learned to love growing up the youngest of 5 to older parents (they gave me a long lead) but then I get so heavy hearted and lonely. It is in that “lonely” that I learn so much about myself. It was how I came to love photography In the first place. When I was in high school I went on an Academic European Tour and I was so painfully homesick. I didn’t want to go on the trip but I knew I had to if I was ever going to see the world. I couldn’t let fear keep me stuck. I had to understand, push into uncharted places and grow. The only thing that gave me comfort during my weakest was taking pictures with my little 110 instamatic. It was then I decided to become a photographer. This whole process of pushing myself past my fears applies to this project. To learn, to understand, to grow we must push past our preconceived ideas and fears.

I am Southern so I feel there is inherent ease of conversation, transparency and familiarity. Being a woman has its advantages as well. People are not intimidated and since I am open I think they feel comfortable. This could mean an hour or two or maybe three hours spent with my subjects. But there are other times when a subject is so striking that is it not about the conversation but about the selfish need to record the emotion I get from seeing whatever it is I encounter along the road. I just have to shoot it. I only ask for permission and they give me what they have time to give.

AK: Why do you think the south has such an undercurrent of tension running through it?

The South, I feel carries a shame still and it overcompensates in many ways because of it, such as rebelliousness and self-righteous pride. Anyway, I think there is undercurrent of tension in the whole country. But there is a humility the south has because of our history that I do not see in the rest of the country.

AK: What are your thoughts about southern stereotypes?

We are more than our stereotypes. I have many qualities and characteristics, qualities and characteristics that sometimes contradict one another. I think this holds true for everything and everybody. How boring life would be if we were all so predictably one way.

I have come to accept the stereotypes placed on the south. I understand the limitations of those that judge, (lack of knowledge, lack of compassion, lack of understanding) myself being included. What I have learned is that people who judge another usually based on a limited view tells more about them than those they are judging.

AK: What is your process of self-promotion? How do you balance living life, making money, and creating work?

I promote both my commercial and fine art work persistently and consistently the best I can financially. Only within the last year have I been promoting my fine art work where I have been promoting my commercial work since 1995. Southern Route is the first project I felt was promotable. It has been a challenging and fun process and it has kept me passionate about my photography during the down turn in the economy.

I started watching other photographers’ growth in the market, going to portfolio reviews, attending lectures and workshops at festivals, entering contests and group shows and, of course, reading blogs, books etc. I haven’t realized a living at my fine art to have it self sustain. I am getting some recognition, though. It is validating and it gives me the courage to speak up with my personal work.

I have been fortunate to be able to live organically, rather than having the typical 9 to 5. Every day is different for me. Although I need routine to stay sane, I need the frenetic energy that photography seems to offer me. I wish I could get more at ease with the down times that comes with the territory of being self employed. Each year I learn to be a bit more comfortable with the unknown. I certainly had the opportunity this past couple years. But in the down time I was able to explore the South more thoroughly and with more humility necessary to create this body of work. I was following my passion and learning about myself in a new light. My motto has become “If you can’t feed the chickens, go out and plow the field.”

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