07 Sep Featured: Tarryn Hatchett | Creating Connection Through Portraiture
Tarryn Hatchett‘s intimate photography style captures people with a striking sensibility that immediately connects the subject and viewer. Often tender and unflinching, she keep things as natural as possible with minimal editing. For her, the medium of photography provides a way to navigate personal conceptions about beauty and the representation of the body.
How did you come to be a photographer specializing in art, fashion and portraiture?
I have always been an obsessive creative from as young as I can remember. I was adamant that I would be an actress/director/artist/musician/mermaid, and was involved in visual and dramatic art from the age of 6. I also fell in love with cinema was obsessed with the idea of telling visual stories. After studying 2 years of drama studies, 1 year of journalism and after doing a lot of personal discovery I realised I needed to start creating again. I have always been a very visual human, who tends to be impatient with creating work, so photography seemed like an obvious answer. I was lucky enough to have the incredible Elsa Young take me under her wing as an assistant when I knew literally nothing and I learned an infinite amount from her, and owe so much to her patience and generosity of spirit. I love the possibilities of play and experimentation in fashion photography. Portraiture and art photography have always been my first loves.
What is most rewarding and challenging about working in this medium?
Being a female photographer working in the industry has been endlessly rewarding. I love that I get to make my own mark on how women are represented in visuals. There are all the clichés of “every day is new”, and “I am never bored on the job” etc. but really the luxury of having an idea, and being able to go out and create it instantly, is incredible. For me it has always been about being infinitely fascinated with the world, and I am so in love with the medium as a means of expressing that.
One of the most significant challenges as a self-taught photographer it that it is so hard to shake off the imposter syndrome. It took me a while to genuinely internalize that you can learn all of the technical stuff, but the brain and approach to the work is what will make your stand out. It was a mentally crippling disadvantage when I started shooting, but now that I have seen just about 300000 “technically perfect” photos that make me want to throw up, I’m confident that this isn’t what photography is about for me. Governing the business side of things has also been a huge learning curve. Other than that, my passion and my career are one and the same, which makes it really hard to turn off from working.
How do you go about conceptualising a shoot? Can you elaborate on the process?
I usually begin a concept inspired by the feeling from a song, a lyric or poetry. Otherwise I start being inspired by a face or a person’s energy – I have been known to approach many a stranger with either of the aforementioned. I always set out to record a glimpse of a subject’s story. I tend to have a general plan when I work with tons of room for play on shoot. I like to keep things quite organic and am open to collaboration with the model on the day. Although my process is more fluid, I spend a great deal of time curating the images that are used. Identifying the few images that have a little something special in them is key for my work. But I do always tend towards intuitive work, rather than trying to control every moment.
With the oversaturation of selfie culture, what in your opinion makes portraiture a unique art form?
Selfies are an art form completely separate to what I do. They are about self-representation, and are about the immediate documentation of the physical. Portraiture, when done right, has magic and sensitivity in it, and is about capturing the essence of a person – not about capturing their best duck face. Portraiture is about getting to know a person.
What is it about the human subject that you try to capture?
Having been raised with ideals where looks and perfection were held in a very high esteem, I aim to make every subject see and feel their own natural beauty. Photography is a means of therapy for aggressively dealing with my own issues around battles with beauty. Imperfections are gorgeous, and should be celebrated, not hidden. Every person that comes to me for a shoot will always start with warning me of the physical thing that they hate, or have been taught to think is unacceptable in photos. Every. Single. Person. Women will beg my pardon for putting a never-ending list of what is “wrong” with their bodies in front of my camera. The idea that we have been taught such steadfast rules on beauty is entirely insane. To have people see photos that I took of them, and say that they love the photos of themselves – and that they look like themselves – that is always the goal.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I like to think that my style is cinematic, tender and naturalistic. I’m deeply inspired by cinema and using photographs to tell a story or evoke a feeling. Even though my photos are often received as melancholic, I love working with the idea of the freedom that comes with exploration in isolation. The strength, beauty and self-discovery that accompanies those quiet moments is a constant theme in what I shoot. I am someone who doesn’t survive without alone time, and I love depicting being alone, as opposed to being lonely. This usually goes hand in hand with the relationship between my subject and their environment
How do you balance your personal style but still remain versatile enough to work on a variety of different projects?
This is a tricky one. I try to use every new project to learn something or stretch myself in some way. Otherwise I feel like my style creeps into every project that I do – personal or not. People hire me for my aesthetic, and for the way that I see things. Otherwise there are a million other photographers that they could work with.
A huge part of my style is also not over sexualizing or simplifying the female form, but rather dealing with the women in my photographs as characters. Due to this, I’m far more inclined to choose to work with a model who can give something in front of the camera, rather than just a pretty face. My relationship with models is so important to me, as opposed to treating them like mannequins. I think that a lot of photographers tend to lose sight of the model as a human being. Visually, I prefer to shoot women with minimal makeup, and keep the image editing process as natural as possible. I’m pretty aggressive on that front. Before I push the shutter, I am very aware of the ideologies that I can confront or entrench.
What are the key elements that make for a powerful portrait?
Portraiture is about connection, and getting to know someone. For me, powerful portraiture is always stripped down and raw. It is about aspiring to sneak a peek into the true essence of someone. It’s absolutely not about photographs of a face. There is such an immense difference. It is a visual interview, and a good portraiture photographer listens with their camera.
Which photographers work inspires you the most and why?
There are so many artists that I look up to. Locally Betina Du Toit, Kristin Lee Moolman, and Ross Garrett make absolute magic. I have always been a huge Sally Mann fan. The beauty, freedom and vulnerability that she captures makes my brain explode, and she began my love affair with portraiture. Larry Sultan is a current obsession. I recently saw his retrospective at LACMA while I was in the States, and was blown away by his approach to photography. His cinematic style, as well as the beauty he captures in contexts not traditionally considered “beautiful” made me fall in love with his work immediately. I am also incredibly inspired by art and film. Right now my brain is filled with Egon Schiele and the aesthetic of 70s cinema.
Who have been your favourite subjects? Are there any projects you’ve worked on that are particularly memorable?
My favourite subjects are always the people I love, or am close to. This gives me the oppurtnity to play with personality and relationship. Plus, I am sentimental as all hell. Specifically, my family, close friends and boyfriend are everywhere in my personal work. I also use my own face as a means of confronting my own demons in my work. Another face that you will see popping up often in my work is Nakhane Toure. His brain, sassiness and generosity in front of the lens make him a fierce favourite to shoot. I have some model muses who I work with repeatedly.
I’m not sure if I have a favourite project, but I do have a most memorable shoot. The first attempt at a fashion shoot that I ever did, with a dear friend who is a model, put me on a high that I can’t explain. I literally had no idea what I was doing, I just knew that I loved the process so fiercely that I didn’t want to do anything else.
Do you have any upcomng projects you can tell us about?
My upcoming projects include finally working on film, and shooting Nakhane Toure’s album cover.