Meghan: You are also a filmmaker, and studied documentary filmmaking at NYU. What led you to photography?
I’ve always taken pictures. I loved disposable cameras as a kid; the excitement of sending film away to be developed and then getting back these perfectly fleshed out moments in time. I really started thinking more deeply about photography around 2010, about the time I was falling out of love with filmmaking. I just started shooting everything around me with a crappy Kodak digital camera. I had a great deal of naive passion about it. I took a ton of terrible pictures, some that I thought were good. I started getting into the work of Alec Soth, Sally Mann, Judith Joy Ross, Susan Lipper, the WPA photographers, etc., and began to understand where my impulse to document was coming from and that other people had it too.
Meghan: What are some of your favorite photobooks?
These are ones I can re-read over and over again: Margaret Bourke White’s Portrait of Myself; Got to Go by Rosalind Fox Solomon; Diane Arbus: A Chronology, by Elisabeth Sussman and Doon Arbus (it’s unbelievably detailed, though I could’ve done without the post-mortem coroner's report that ends the book); Larry Sultan’s Pictures from Home; The Photographer’s Eye by John Szarkowski; The Restless Decade, John Guttman’s Photographs of the Thirties. Recently I got a lot out of Jörg Colberg’s Understanding Photobooks. Then there’s people I know either IRL or from the web that are making photobooks I really admire: Nathan Pearce is a zine making machine; Tammy Mercure is a mentor; Carrie Elizabeth Thompson’s Notes From My Therapist is a brave and beautiful autobiographical work.
I’m first drawn to the work of a photographer and then I want to know everything about how they made it. The Likes of Us: America in the Eyes of the Farm Security Administration is a great resource for the stories behind the stories of the iconic images of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, et al. And I once found a mint condition signed copy of Lee Friedlander’s Flowers and Trees at a thrift shop. It had a signed print inside!
Meghan: What are you currently working on?
I’m doing a weekly interview series with photographers for Vice called Doin’ Work. I ask everyone the same questions and wind up with vastly different answers--a photocentric version of the Proust Questionnaire. I love that it gives me an excuse to start a dialogue with people whose work I admire. I’m also interviewing underrepresented women in photography for BUST Magazine. Then I’m curating a photo series called Some Days Just Are, where I pair up two photographers and have them each make one photo from 9am - 9pm on a selected day. I combine the images from both participants into a photo essay; I hope the work will shine a light on the ways in which we're interconnected as humans, and how time is our common denominator. I’m also putting together a new book of my own work called Too Tired For Sunshine. It’s a collection of photographs made in Vermont between 2011–2016.
For more of Tara Wray's work, please visit her website.