April 10, 2012

What Am I Trying To Do?

Over the weekend, Yareah Magazine posted my collage “Lover” and the lovely Isabel wrote an insightful commentary. I wanted to expand on what she said, starting yesterday.

Isn’t it funny how a person’s aesthetic extends throughout his or her life?

Isabel wrote,
When I see Tamara Linse’s photos (, I see a refined practice and a strange desire of questioning us. Sometimes, she takes only a detail, and forces our imagination to complete the whole picture. Other times, she takes an enormous landscape and we have to put the details, carefully, stone by stone, step by step. No people in her photos. Why? Because we are the people, who suffer or enjoy the situation and in the end, who feel: an artistic achievement? For sure.

(First of all, thank you so much for your kind words, Isabel!)

This got me wondering about what the heck am I trying to do?  It’s like the definition of porn: I know it when I see it.  Well, let me think out loud about a few photos. 

I like finding things that are amusing.  I’m not looking for a belly laugh ~ not isn’t-this-person-a-geek-and-don’t-I-feel-better-than-them kind of stuff.  Little quirky things, little glimpses of light.  (One of the critiques I have of some well-known western writers is that their stuff is so unremittingly dark.  I want moments of light in my work because then you feel the dark so much more fully.)

Sometimes you just get a perfect knock-your-socks-off metaphor.  Here the church steeple juxtaposed against the glowering sky hits something deep and primal within us.

I like color.  We have this preconceived notion that nature is boring and monochromatic and not nearly as exciting as our urban neon.  But Mother Nature is surprising in the range of colors she offers and beauty it brings.

Composition makes all the difference.  The way you clip the image.  If I had centered this little guy, it would be just another photo of just another squirrel.  Ho hum.  But by creating edge anxiety by placing him so close to two sides and then giving so much asphalt (is a car coming?!), it lends the photo drama and tension and maybe even a bit of storyline.

Speaking of storyline, I love images that hint at stories.  What happened here?  The imagination runs wild.  A young guy and his friend peeling out, almost rolling, sitting there, eyes wide, "Shit." Or a wife had a fight with her husband and overcorrected at a phantom, which makes her realize life's too short. Or something else.

I like focusing in on details.  There’s subtle beauty all around us, but we just don’t pay attention to it.  I’ve long thought that miracles are not large things, like the parting of the Red Sea.  No, they happen in tiny ways all the time.  The miracle of beauty.  The miracle of a friend’s smile.  The miracle of a flower bud.  And, you know, it’s details that make great art.  Generalizations bad, surprising details good.

Finally, this is the only picture of a person I have posted.  Isabel is right.  No people.  Why is that?  My stories are minutely interested in people.  Well, I’m really shy about asking people to take their photographs.  If this weren’t the case, I imagine all my images would be about people.  But I feel like I’m imposing. These guys, when I pantomimed to ask permission through the window, were so welcoming and generous.  As you can see on his face.

I wanted to wrap up by saying, these aspects of aesthetics run through all my creative endeavors. In my photos and my writing, I like to include light and dark, though I am very much drawn to the subtle deep dark.  I love writing that has wonderful metaphor at a sentence level and at a structural level. Color ~ the more visual you can be in your writing, the more you put in five senses, the more you carry the reader along with detail move by move, the better experience they’ll have. Composition ~ you have to leave the wrong stuff out and put in the right stuff.  The question is, which is which? And of course, you want to tell a story in your writing (perhaps some literary writers forget this). Subtle details are the absolute most important thing in writing.  And, finally, people.  This is where my writing differs from the photos.  I am fascinated with the small violences and small graces we bestow upon one another.  That’s what I’m trying to capture in my writing.

And so my aesthetic seems to run through everything I do.  As does yours.  This is what you offer the world ~ you and only you.  Your peculiar and wonderful worldview.


Brent Stratford said...

Hi Tamara,

I personally am not into dark stories. I prefer the lighter more uplifting interactions in life. But, I love your photography.

Tamara said...

Oh, I do love uplifting as well. They're really hard to write, though, without treading ground that's been gone over a lot. It is much more challenging to write good uplifting stories, IMHO, than dark in many ways. :-)

Thank you, Brent!

~ Tamara