Welcome back to Doin' Work: Flash Interviews With Contemporary Photographers. This is a place for me to celebrate the photographers who inspire me, and to present to you an easily digestible bite of their personality.
This week's guest is Tammy Mercure. Mercure was named one of the "100 under 100: The New Superstars of Southern Art" by Oxford American. She has been featured on CNN Photos, VICE, Daily Mail, NPR Big Picture Show, and more. She was published in the Guardian UK (Big Picture), Darwin Magazine, and in the book Place, Art, and Self by Yi-Fu Tuan. She has a BA from Columbia College Chicago and an MFA from East Tennessee State University.
Where do you live and work and how does it inform your photography?
New Orleans. It is always chaotic and beautiful. It is impossible to pin down, so it keeps me on my toes. Everything changes so I have to get photos while I can, but also I find myself not taking photos sometimes because it feels like some things are just for me at that moment.
How long have you been making pictures?
Since I was about 20 (almost 20 years--yikes!) Started undergrad as an arts management major and took a photo class my second year and haven't stopped. I am so happy I had the amazing Jno Cook for my first class--he made it so fun while encouraging us to make a lot of work--I don't think I would have latched on if someone had presented it as a precious thing.
If you had to explain your images to a child, how would you describe them?
Hey--look at all these amazing things we do.
Do you make a living as a photographer? If yes, please explain how. If no, please tell me about your day job.
No. Currently, I am opening a shop selling art, gifts, and more (Non-Society Hands opening April 5!), doing data entry for a local startup, and odd jobs with the occasional photo gig.
Show me your signature image.
She lives a life of her own all over the internet too. Someone recently told me that this image was used in a Facebook quiz.
What does it look like when you're in the flow?
I try not to worry about it too much--I am pretty wound up naturally, so it is easier to be in the flow making new work. Sitting still to edit is harder--good on days where I am a little tired.
Describe the approach you take when establishing a relationship with a subject.
I generally photograph people I don't know and see out and about. They will grab my attention for some reason--maybe it is a gesture they are making or something they are wearing or they are just beaming. Usually I go up and just tell them what I love about them and ask if I can photograph them for my art project. I'm a pretty happy-go-lucky person and am open about my intentions. Most people appreciate the attention and say yes. Some people want to chat after and depending on the situation they might show me something else they think I might like. It is very addicting to walk up to anyone who is interesting and have a short interaction.
Name three contemporary photographers that blow your mind.
Katy Grannan, Rosalind Fox Solomon, Michelle Groskopf.
How do you procrastinate?
When I need to edit I clean my house from front to back and take a lot of baths.
What do you think of the vast sea of online photography? What's your secret for standing out in this sea?
I like seeing lots of photos and having access to a lot of images. And I like how each outlet has unique challenges. When I switched from Tumblr to Instagram it was a challenge to have an image read within a small square. I try to stand out by being consistent with showing new work. I like to share where I am at and what my current interests are. Right now I am obsessed with reptiles and birds and water.
What are you most looking forward to this year in terms of your work?
Writing and drawing more. Working on a new set of zines that needs some doodles and text.
What's your definition of creative success?
Aside from photography, what else is of great importance in your life?
A good meal with good conversation. But I think photography is always there--it changed my life with looking more and asking people about themselves and what they do. People, for the most part, are interesting and nice and will share. It's nice that a lot of people in New Orleans are like that too--my neighbors all know everyone's business, including mine, and I love it.
What do you think the future of photography might look like?
Seems to be fairly cyclical--my bet is on something to do with VR or 3D for a time.
What motivates you to take out your camera when the script in your head is saying "maybe tomorrow"?
I grew up in Iowa where it was very blue collar and full of chores. Photography is very blue collar for me--it'll happen if I just leave the house. And I've taken some of my favorite photos when I was in a terrible mood or tired or drippy with allergies. And a good head game never hurts--I've gone to boring events and I'll make a deal with myself that I can't leave until I've stayed an hour or taken 100 photos.