Monday, December 28, 2015

The Leader

"I dream of making Belconnen the best place I can".
“When a woman is talking to you, listen to what she says with her eyes” – it’s one of Victor Hugo’s most popular quotes for the simple and powerful truth it harbours.

And Tara’s eyes certainly tell tons of stories. She is a natural-born leader and she draws attention pretty quickly when she enters a room.  Her presence is imposing without her even trying and we had a quick debate whether it’s due to her charisma or to her red hair, which quickly became her Canberran presence trade mark. I personally think it’s both – and particularly the charisma. But Tara confessed that the red hair contributed a great deal to her self-confidence and to defining her public persona.

I ask everyone the same question: “Who are you”?
It is a simple, 3-word question which may seem confronting for the simple reason that we are facing ourselves, in a mirror exercise, taking down any self-protective or social masks we may have, denuding our souls to ourselves and find an honest answer.

“Who I am now is a tricky question! I think you've seen that I'm many different people. I'm a boss, and I'm bossed around. I think I naturally take leadership positions. I'd like to be a politician; I hope I can be the best politician for this area. I think asking the public to vote for me and to accept me as their representative is a pretty big innermost dream that I've now had to come clean with”!

 “My earliest memory of wanting to 'be something' was probably during Grade 2, I think. I said I wanted to be a nurse and I remember telling that to my father. He said that I didn't just have to stop at being a nurse, that I could be a doctor; if I put my mind to it, I could be anything. When I was leaving high school I thought I wanted to be a journalist. I think I wanted to be a politician but I was scared to admit it, so I thought that being a journalist was a good match for my skills at the time”.
The one really important thing that Tara wants to achieve is for people to recognize that she made Belconnen better while she was a member. The first initiative that she would like to take as a politician is to improve the policies around waste in the ACT.

Through these portrait series, I am trying to get a true glimpse of my sitters and in the midst of all the hats they juggle at any given day, the “hat of many dreams” is meant to find a dimension where they are themselves, comfortable and unguarded from the social clich├ęs or expectations.

Tara feels most at home when she is out bushwalking on her own (with a dog!). “There's something about the self-reliance of it all - even when I'm just a few hundred meters from houses” – she confesses.
So we set the stage for our portrait in one of the most peaceful places around: the grasslands in the suburban fringe, just before sunset, when the whole world prepares to rest.
Incidentally, it is also the only place I know where one gets photo bombed by kangaroos.
If you would like to find more about Tara, you can read her amazing posts on her blog, In the Taratory


A Hat of Many Dreams

You meet someone in the crowd wearing same hat. Who wears it best, you wonder? And you might even alternate a couple of hats, depending on mood, style or season.
But what happens when a hat "wears" the persons?
This is an invitation to dream: what is inspiring you? How do you see yourself when you are wearing the "hat of many dreams?"
Nowadays everyone is a story teller; in the rush for sensational, we tend to forget that ordinary people make the best stories. This is my favourite hat ever. I started this series with my own family and our innermost self-projections but I intend to extend the project, take my hat around, ask people about their dreams, get their eyes off their phones and uncover their stories. Ultimately, this is about connecting with each other; a tale of individuals and of identity.

While digital photography is now quite an established art, my project aims to be a social experiment, combining interview, documentary & portrait photography and possibly sound. What we are looking at is a cross over with a very acute problem we all have - feeling socially disconnected and inadequate while being so virtually connected.

We are juggling quite a few hats during any given day. Some instances we are who we need to be and not necessarily what defines our core. We wear various social masks, we guard our beliefs and our inner sanctum. So much so that it can be confronting to answer honestly an initial question "who are you?"; to think about who we are, who we wanted to be and who we have become. 

Making a portrait for each of my sitters involves more than just pressing the shutter release of my camera. I look at it more as an act of building the portrait together; it is collaboration through our interaction, as opposed to a selfie or taking a photo through an automatic photo booth. The result – their portrait – is a combination of my images and their words, both equally important in defining them. I aim to explore further this connection between the artist and the sitter; by dedicating the time to listen and capture their dream.

I draw on my photographic abilities and also on my reportage and storytelling skills to engage with my audience. In most cases, I know very little about them until the time of the sitting.
I aim to capture my sitters’ true self, expressing emotions through the power of images, using minimal props and my ability to read body language and facial expressions.

Their stories are approached from two perspectives: as an artist, I pay attention to aesthetics. I take the time to study their physiognomy and the surroundings in order to create strong images. As a member of the same community, I am genuinely interested in getting to know the people around me and connect with them.  
I draw on my own multicultural background; prompting them to share the uniqueness of their dream and what makes them distinctive.

My project is a tale of individuality and identity but it also reflects cultural, social and contemporary snippets by matching the individuals with the role they play in their community. For instance, “The Leader” is the portrait of an aspiring politician. ‘The Healer” is a nurse and wild life volunteer.
The sitters have the key of the entire project, as ultimately they are the only ones who truly know how honest they were in their answers. My role is to engage them and try to capture what I think it's their essence, the way it emerges from our discussion. It mightn't seem challenging but consider this: it took a person quite a few years of life to become who they are; yet I will endeavour to uncover and detail their personality in minutes. 
As for me, what I am truly hoping to achieve with this project is the one thing that defines me as an artist: finding the stories that need to be told. Connecting and getting the others to reconnect as well. 
I would dearly love to get back on the saddle so to speak and do more artwork, find that spark again, do my dreaming and inspire the others to do that too.

If you are interested to have your portrait taken in this series, please contact me.