text by Craig Hallowes | images courtesy: Candice Berman Fine Art Gallery (PTY) LTD | photographer: Nina Lieska | Repro Pictures
Tamara James has been on a journey to paint the nuances of life through her camera, and in black and white. She says: ‘My passion for photography started with the arts. Studying Fine Arts opened the door to where I fell in love with the darkroom and pinhole.’
It’s clear that her interests are diverse, embracing many subjects in many forms. She adds: ‘From film to digital, just holding a camera puts a smile on my face. With a camera in hand, any dream is possible.’ Such are the dreams she encapsulates in her subjects – the wistful smile of adolescents, the special moment of recognition in a child’s stare, the love and admiration of newly-weds.
‘I’m an artist, I like to experiment with the contradictions in life: the black versus white, and how these enhance each other in their juxtaposition. The body is simple and beautiful and I like the medium I use, as well as the context of my camera angles that avoids the subjective elements of our perceptions, thus allowing a realisation of the form of humanity. My focus is the female, but the male is a part of an appreciation of both identities.
‘At an early age, I was drawing nudes, experimenting with the complex forms and subtleties of the human body. My family thought this was a little strange, but I always felt comfortable exploring what might have been considered taboo in another environment.’
With an explosion of colour perhaps seen as being overpowering and confusing, this artist chose black and white to focus on the essence of the form; yet never detracting from the representation of the female – soft lines and maternal curves. ‘The reason for my choice of black and white is quite personal, I find life quite messy, confusing at times and often very daunting. I use black and white to simplify this perceived chaos, to draw focus on my subject matter as well as to implement contrast,’ she explains.
‘I find this focus – perhaps even the intensity of simplifying both the subject and its colour – as a form of therapy that affects calmness. I pour, splatter and drip paint over the model to attain the effect I am after, sometimes using a paintbrush to help adorn my human canvas. It’s a messy, and again personal experience. I then use my studio setting to photograph my painted human figures, exposing the black paint. Once I have my images I move on to post production where I remove everything except the black paint. It’s important to me to make no alterations on the actual form of the figure as I want it to be true to itself.’
Tamara James has exhibited at the Cape Town Art Fair 2017 with Candice Berman. Subscribe to her newsletter to keep updated with news and exhibitions.
For the full article see Habitat #261 September / October 2017