American photographer based in, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, Documentary & Street: Tammy Mercure
1) What Photobooks are you currently looking at ?
I feel really lucky to be looking through books for The Blue Library (thebluelibrary.com). I put out a call for photobooks inspired by the chapbook format to be on display during PhotoNOLA here in New Orleans. I chose 50 chapbooks and it blows my mind how varied and interesting they are. The highlights for me are Rebecca Rau’s “My Selfone Made Me See: An Important Collection of Early 21st Century American Smartphone Photographs”, Alison Chen’s “How to Fall in Love”, Keegan Grandbois’ “Together Sooner Than Later”, Michelle K Anderson’s “R u gonna come out this summer”, Courtney Asztalos’ “Destiny USA”, and Aaron Turner’s “Home”. I am so happy to be around at this time- the technology allows for people to connect and make books in this new system and it is still possible to find a community as it continues to grow but not be too big. I’ve been to the last two New York Art Book Fairs and while I find a lot of it silly, it has been the best to be able to put faces to the people I love and admire from tumblr and long emails chats.
2) What was the last truly inspiring Photobook you saw ?
I love independently produced photobooks- having to present a vision and make it happen on a budget with the materials at hand is always a challenge and I am inspired by the choices that others make. In terms of wider release, I love all of Katy Grannan’s recent books. The matte paper and large scale let me connect more to the people. Taryn Simon gets me going in terms of constructing a complex story in book form. I love spending time with those books- the photos, their order, the text, the missing parts- all come together to make a new language. And somewhere in between those worlds, Jan Hoek’s books reside. His books are exciting- I love his direct conversational voice and how he uses the book to explore big ideas with very specific topics.
3) Give us the name of your favorite overlooked or underappreciated Photographer ?
Most photographers don’t get enough appreciation. I don’t like quotes, but Robert Adams spoke eloquently about photography in saying, “why quit when you’re losing.” Haha. On tumblr, I think Jess Smith / and Michelle Groskopf work consistently and tirelessly.
4) What are your photographic guilty pleasures? Do you have a favorite genre/style ?
I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If I love something I am happy to shout about it. I think they are simply pleasures- I love music videos- right now I am repeating Beyonce’s 7/11 and Taylor Swift’s Blank Space. I also will watch most videos that are go-pros about animals and I love Superbowl commercials.
I love all genre/styles- I tend to be more drawn towards portraits of any sort and been thinking a lot about archives as I have been scanning glass plates from the early 1900s at work.
5) If we came to your studio what would we see ?
I don’t have a studio. I need to be out and about with people to work. For editing, I have my computer and accessories in my living room at a big desk. If I am figuring out logistics on a book project, I’ll have piles of paper lying about, but I do a lot of thinking with Lightroom.
6) What’s the best Photobook on (Your nationality) Photography you’ve ever read ?
Mark Steinmetz’s trio of books: South East, South Central, and Greater Atlanta. They show the organized chaos that is America. He shows the gracefulness that exists that can be easy to overlook and the self awareness/self assuredness that Americans possess.
7) What subject other than photography, are you interested in ? That nevertheless informs your work ?
I like thinking about life, so I really enjoy reading. I like that writers can play with structure and really get to something. It helps me think about my work sideways. In the last year, I’ve really loved Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, the comic book Saga, Ian Tregillis's Bitter Seeds trilogy, and Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch.
8) What was the last Photobook that made you happy ?
Courtney Asztalos’ Bourbon Street book, made me really happy. The design is crazy and perfect and I love that each one comes with an authentic piece of Bourbon Street. I got a drawing of a woman by a Bourbon Street club dancer complete with a lip stick kiss from the dancer.
9) What was the last Photobook that made you sad ?
Tara Wray’s Come Again When You Can’t Stay So Long, made me sad (in a good way). Seeing the fragility of Tara’s grandmother made me sad, but it gets to what makes life special. And Tara really gets that every family is unique in its strangeness/disfunction.
10) What kind of person were you as a child? And what were your favorite childhood memories, which made you a photographer? How have you grown over the years what has changed what remained the same ?
My favorite childhood memories are running around the woods behind my house and making things with my Grandma. I would spend a couple weeks by myself on the farm with my grandparents. It between morning chores and afternoon farmwork, we could make things like pillowcases with funny sayings and play weird games like betting on horse races from stacks of old newspapers. I am probably much the same, but I continue to get less serious as I get older. I was very quiet around people, besides my best friends and family, as a kid and I have gotten increasingly loud. I learned about starting and finishing projects and the love of the work involved from being with my Grandma.
11) Whom do you consider your Photographic Masters? Do you believe in mastery ?
I am not interesting in the masters. Literature has the Flannery O’Connor rule, where she gets thrown in as the token woman on a big list of masters. We have Diana Arbus and Dorthea Lange. I am more inspired by my contemporaries as it is getting easier (though we have some work to do still) to find a variety of voices.
12) Which Photographers have had the most impact on you as a Photographer ? Is there a particular Photo that made you want to be a Photographer? Please upload an image to justify your statement ?
I love entertaining photographs. As a kid I was obsessed with Ripley’s Believe It Or Not books with photos and Guiness Book photos. I know I am influenced by those- they are a little bit bigger than life and the people get to present themselves.
13) What gear do you use, and how does your gear, support your photographic vision. How would you describe your photographic Work flow what software, hardware, storage, & filters do you use ?
Currently, I photograph with a Sony A7 with a 35mm lens and a big flash. I love this camera- it is small and has a great electronic viewfinder which is perfect for making quick portraits- I get feedback without having to move the camera from my face and I get to gaze more directly at the person. I try to photograph daily and each day I photograph, I will download the images, convert to dngs, and then copy to my harddrive (which makes two copies- I update a third copy about once a month), and then import into Lightroom. Any day I make a suffient amount of images, I will make a fun little edit for Tumblr. Otherwise, I’ll start edits and ideas in Lightroom that I am constantly tweaking and thinking about. I use Photoshop for finishing touches if an image makes it to print at some point.
14) Do you have any regrets with regards to your photography especially when starting out. What would you do differently ?
No regrets- I am 37 years old and still in love with making photos. There is no turning back now. I try to mix things up concept-wise and technical to keep it interesting. I am trying to get better at the business part- it isn’t natural to me to do some of the things that seem to work for photographers to make some money. I am trying to be more succinct with my website edit and trying to say things in words too. I think people need an entry point and text can be more direct.
15) In your genre style of work, what are the challenges/opportunities to your business. How do you envision yourself 5 years from now ?
I’ll consider my business making photographs whether or not I make any money. Haha. I am excited about combining photography, text, gifs, video, audio, etc, and having that get easier but more complex.
16) In your photographers Imagination, how do you perceive India. What photographs would you like to make of Her ?
From conversations, books, and films I have the impression that India would have some of the things I love about the Southeast US- a controlled chaos and stunning visual beauty. Real life is better than my imagination- people are always surprising, usually in a great way, so I’d try to go with an open mind and react and interact.
Biography In Her Own Words
I was recently named one of the "100 under 100: The New Superstars of Southern Art" by Oxford American magazine. 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. She is currently living in New Orleans, Louisiana.