Spotlight for Inspiration - Tara Taylor Denny
This week's Spotlight for Inspiration belongs to Tara Taylor Denny! Tara is an amazing woman and artist. She has been a very important part of our group and a marvelous cheerleader!
I invite all of you to read on and find out about her life, her evolution as an artist, and her dreams and wishes.
Hello Tara. I’m very excited to be interviewing you today!
First off, tell me a bit about you. Where are you from? Where did you grow up? How old are you?
Okay! I am 34 years old and I grew up in rural Ohio, but now I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana with my Husband Dan, my Daughter Eve, and my 2 dogs Ash and Zeeke.
Perfect! You knew what I was going to ask! Thank you!
I'm psychic. HAHA!
HA! You sure sound like it!
What is your background? Or have you always been into photography?
I took a photography class in high school and loved it. Then, when my husband and I started dating, many of our dates included long days out shooting nature and landscapes. Life eventually got in the way and we put our camera's down for a long time. Eve was born and I picked up again with it. I almost had to relearn everything, it had been so long.
For a while, I thought I wanted to be a family portrait photographer, but I really don't like dealing with the people aspect very much. I'd find myself so nervous before any shoot that I'd be sick to my stomach and dreaded having to edit the pictures. My heart wasn't in it, so I decided to stop with the paid type shoots and focus on what made me excited.
Around that time, I took Brooke's Creative Live class and she opened my eyes to a whole new style. It had just never occurred to me that *I* could create images like that too. And so I tried it, and I was really bad at it, but I loved the process and the creativity in it. So, it stuck.
WOW, that's romantic and interesting to hear! I can definitely relate to your nervousness. I get just as nervous before a portrait shoot.
Brooke's class was definitely amazing! I think we all learned a lot from that. She truly inspired all of us. Can you tell us about your first image; the first one that you tried after her class?
Oh, I had this idea in my head about a mother and daughter escaping a violent home by balloons. It was supposed to be very dark and very sad, and I had a very specific idea of how it would turn out. It didn't turn out AT ALL like I wanted it to. It was very ambitious for a first image composite. But I may go back to it someday, now that I have learned a few things.
WOW, I remember that image! It was like if you had posted it yesterday! I think it was actually very good for it being your first.
Haha! Well, thank you! I remember posting it and the biggest criticism I got was about how white my feet were. I was so embarrassed. LOL
Were you disappointed by it in the end or not? What inspired you to keep going and to keep practicing?
I was disappointed with that image, but even more frustrated by my lack of skills when shooting. At that time, I wasn't shooting in full manual mode because I was terrified, but I wasn't getting the lighting right in any of my images either. So compositing was really difficult when the lighting was so off from picture to picture. That made me learn to shoot full on manual and once I started getting images that I could see improvement with, I was encouraged to keep going. Also, having such a wonderful group as ours to ask for help and get gentle criticism from was monumental to me continuing with this style. If it wasn't for you guys, I'm sure I would have given up long ago. :-)
Oh that's wonderful and inspiring. So, you loved it so much that you simply decided to keep trying!
I'm stubborn, if nothing else.
I'm so glad that our group was there to support and help you! You have definitely evolved a lot since that image and you have developed an unique style. How did you develop it? How did it come to be?
It's funny that you say that, because I still feel like I'm struggling to find a style. I just shoot what comes into my head. I try to plan shoots but, every single planned shoot has fallen through for me. I always end up getting something great anyway. Sometimes, it's close to what I wanted. Sometimes it's on another planet from what I went out to get but, I usually can make something usable out of whatever I shoot. Though, I do have those days where I pretty much waste my time and make a huge mess for no reason.
Yet, every time I see one of your pieces I recognize it being yours. You truly have something unique to you. I love it. Even the color scheme and the tones you use are unique to you. Have you noticed that?
I guess I haven't. LOL Maybe I'll go back through and look.
Haha, you should! So here's my next question.
There are many photographers that gather inspiration from other photographers, from painters, or other artists. Do you ever do that?
I LOVE to look at other artists, not just photographers, but painters, digital artists, sculptors too. They are all so inspiring but, if I take anything from another artist, it would be on more of a technical aspect. Like, I was wondering how on earth they made it look like she was underwater when I know darn well it was shot in studio. Then I'll try to figure out how and maybe use that technique for something I want to shoot later. I try very hard not to copy ideas, but I've seen it happen where I'll have an idea forever and before I get a chance to shoot it, someone else will post almost the exact same thing. Then, I'm all like "DANG IT! I WAS GOING TO DO THAT!" LOL
I just chalk it up to "great minds think alike" and try to come up with something different.
HAHAHA, that's true. I believe they do! Like so many photographers that I've heard say "there are no new ideas"!
I liked what Brooke said on her blog about it… that nobody else will do it exactly like you do, so don't let that hold you back from creating your version.
Tell me a bit about your process. Do you plan your images? Do you write about them, sketch pictures?
I try to plan them, or at least scribble something down so I don't forget them. I have a sketchbook with a lot of scribbles and stick figures and that's a rough draft for what I want to come up with. I'm not experienced enough to be able to plan for and control every aspect of a shoot, so usually what happens is that I have to improvise more often than not, and then I get into post and see what I can do with what I managed to get. Often, I'll end up making an entirely different image than I set out to get.
Yep, that sounds all too familiar to me! HA! I think it happens to most of us.
So, who do you use for your images? Do you do self-portraits? Do you use models? Family members?
I do a lot of self -portraits because I happen to be the only person around when I get the urge to create. I sometimes use my daughter, but she is "so over being in pictures mom". My very good friend Ella was the first one to support my new style and she has been my biggest fan and cheerleader and the most fun model I work with. I met and worked with Aisha once and we had great chemistry and enjoyed working together but haven't had another chance to do so. I have dates set up with other models for later this year, and I am anxious about working with unknown people, but excited to. I am trying to break out of my shell and meet new people.
Very interesting! I love it when photographers use themselves as models. I think it makes us learn a lot and makes it easier as well in many aspects.
Your daughter sounds so cute. HAHA. I've seen several photographers say that their kids are just tired of being photographed as well! -- How do you find these models that you have scheduled for this year?
It does take the pressure off. There really isn't anyone to be accountable to and you can take your time and really get to know your settings and see what works and what doesn't. It is a little unnerving for me to edit self -portraits, though. I don't like having all my flaws magnified to 100% in Photoshop. LOL
Surprisingly to me, many have contacted me. I am on Model Mayhem and I encouraged Ella to make an account there as well. Many other models found me through her. This style is very unique in our area, so I think a lot of them are excited to have something unusual in their portfolios. It's humbling and intimidating to have people contact me because they like what I do. I really hope I don't disappoint any of them.
Oh you definitely won't, you are an incredible photographer and artist! They will be really happy to see the results!!!! I cannot wait to see what you have planned for this year!
As a conceptual photographer yourself, do you believe PS is a necessary tool to be successful in this genre of photography?
It is certainly helpful, and for the way I work 100% necessary, but I don't believe it's crucial to every artist. There are plenty of ways to make a conceptual photograph that don't rely on Photoshop and I have seen many very great images done completely without it. For me, though, the fun in is the processing.
I agree. Post-processing is so much fun.
What's your favorite PS tool or process?
Curves!! I love how you can change the entire feel of an image by just a few little tweaks with curves.
We've already talked about you having a little sketchbook to jot down your ideas for your images but, how do you get those ideas? What are you inspired by?
Much of what I create is inspired by what is going on in my life or friends' lives, by the way I feel about something, and very much comes from my childhood. I have a friend who is going through a messy divorce and we are working on an image right now that deals with the pain she is going through. I just released a set of images that deals with domestic violence. Though there are times that I just like to play. :-)
Absolutely, I noticed you have very important and strong themes going on in your images! It's great when they are inspired by real life yet created as a fantasy! "An image is worth a thousand words!"
Is there a specific theme that comes up more than any other?
I don't think I have recurring themes. If I had to stretch I would say I see undertones of empowerment and freedom, release from bonds. Nothing really overt.
I saw that you were selected for a gallery show! Tell us more about that, please!!
Oh, Okay! Well, I joined Artlink last year. It’s our towns art collective. Membership grants you a spot in the members show every year, so I thought I would show something there and have that under my belt, but I chickened out. Then every call for entry they sent out after that, I also chickened out with excuses like "Oh, I don't have the money to print and frame" or, "I don't have anything good enough right now"... So, when the call for portfolios came out, they announced that this would be to see who gets into the gallery for their own show for the next 3 years. I knew if I didn't send in SOMETHING I wouldn't have another shot until 2016. So, I thought, well, this is it, and I just sent them the best of what I had at the time. I knew if I didn't try I would kick myself forever for chickening out, but I didn't think I really had a chance to get in. Surprise, surprise!... I got an email last week letting me know that I got in!! I'll find out all the details and dates sometime in February.
Oh! Well, that's absolutely amazing!!! It's incredible. I'm so happy for you and proud of you!
Thank You Rocio! You're awesome and so supportive!
Thank you! You are awesome, too! Besides that show, what's next for you? What is in your plans?
Gosh, I sure don't know. For the next year, I'm planning on doing a little travelling and like I said, looking forward to working with new models and meeting new people. I'm hoping to build an impressive portfolio and approach more galleries. I am really wanting to focus this year on refining my style, improving my technique and break out of my comfort zone. At the end of the year, I am hoping to put out a book with several of my creative friends. There will be poetry and short stories, paintings and of course my photos.
Those sound like great plans! How exciting.
Please, let us know about that book you put out with your friends. I would love to read and look at it and I'm sure our group members as well!
I will surely do that!
It's time for my last question even though I wish I could talk to you all night!
As you know, over a thousand photographers will read this interview. What do you want to say to them? What is your biggest advice to them? What message do you want them to get from you?
I would like them to know that no matter where they are in their learning process, what stage they are at in their creative journey, that it is exactly where they are supposed to be right now. They are experiencing a crucial stage in their artistic development and that they should not get discouraged, because it will help them become a better artist before long. "Comparison Is the Death of Joy" and they shouldn't compare themselves to someone who is more advanced on their creative path. Not so long ago, that same person was in the same spot that they were, feeling the same misgivings and making the same mistakes. It's OKAY to be learning, in fact, if you stop learning, then I believe you stop being an artist.
Tara's Gift of Inspiration:
Textures created by her!