Images that shaped a vision, with Emma Tillman

23.01.2018 | Art , Blog | BY:

Emma Tillman’s photographs chronicle the unseen moments in life, those, to steal from Virginia Woolf, islands of meaning which shore up against the ferocious momentum of time. It’s fitting that her book Disco Ball Soulwas named such: thoughtful, investigative and lingering, her portraits of friendships, romance and the natural world offer an energising and playful mosaic of her experience of the world. Here, she tells Twin about the images which have most impacted and shaped her life and work.

Alberto García-Alix

Alberto García-Alix is a Spanish photographer from León whose work was part of a movement that shaped modern documentary photography, but to me he is so much more. And that is where I will begin with this list. I would say in a word, he is shameless. And it is this shamelessness that draws circles around the core of ugliness and strangeness, illuminating it until it is light, despite all its rugged detail.

Emma Suarez | © Alberto García-Alix

Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon is an American artist from New York City. Although I had come in contact with her widely regarded and well collected photography a handful of times in my adult life, I had not been touched by its power until one lonely afternoon at the Tate Modern in London. I wandered into a room full of her work from “An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar” and finally understood.

That rainy day I explored the gap she so eloquently elaborated on. Between the brilliant precision of her semiotic examination of secrets and the divine poetry with which she captures them. Simon raises very potent questions, with elegance and beauty.

Lucas film archives, props and set pieces. Skywalker Ranch, Marin County, California | © Taryn Simon

Manuel Álvarez Bravo

Manuel Álvarez Bravo was a Mexican photographer from Mexico City and is considered one of the preeminent art photographers in Mexican history. His interest in elevating the quotidian at a time when photography, especially in his home country was staged and highly formal, attracted me from an early age.

In addition to his pioneering reach in exploring the everyday, Bravo sees texture as something deep and mysterious, almost sacred. These observations have haunted me from the time I was a little girl, looking through one of his books in the vast living room of a family friend.

Graciela Iturbine

Graciela Iturbine is a Mexican photographer from Mexico City, and protogée of another photographer mentioned here among my favourites, Manuel Álvarez Bravo. She turned to photography after the death of her six year old daughter and when I look at her images, they all seem to have the lingering sadness and mystery of death, even when the works are capturing subjects which are vividly alive. Otherworldly would be a better word, but overused, don’t you think?

Graciela Iturbine, Cemetery Juchita 1988

Ruth Orkin

Ruth Orkin was an American photographer from Los Angeles who was largely self-taught. She had a ground-breaking career as a freelance photojournalist during a time when the field was, of course largely dominated by men. But it was my contact with her famous photograph, “An American Girl in Italy” (1951) which includes her in this list. When I was twelve or thirteen, I was given a postcard which featured the photograph on the front.

I became obsessed with the story it told. There was an incredible amount of complex information contained inside. Historically, the photograph is somewhat controversial, and seems to be a Rorschach test for personal ideas about feminism. I for one, knew exactly what it meant; independence, freedom and self-determination. For that reason, I can’t say the photographer directly influenced my work as much as my way of life.

An American Girl in Italy, 1951 | © Ruth Orkin

Helmut Newton 

One night, many years ago now, I was at the Chateau Marmont waiting for someone who never came. The bartender, feeling bad for me, very graciously stayed past last call and regaled me with ghost stories from the hotel. One of them was the story of Helmut Newton’s death; a car crash in which he drove headlong into the formidable white wall guarding the hotel’s entrance. Until then, I had always heard his name but never quite put the pieces together, you might say. But his tragic demise piqued my interest and when I discovered his world, I was enchanted. Everything he photographed had a perverse sexiness. It was dark, physical, and expressed a glamorous power that I saw mirrored in my own interests.

I think about him now every time I pass that white wall, and say a little prayer for all who flirt with the dark side.

La Hollandaise, Monte Carlo, 1994 | © Helmut Newton

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French photographer from Paris. The king of composition! The king of the candid! And man, what a life well lived.  In 1952 he published his book, “The Decisive Moment” about his philosophical approach to photography (with cover illustrations by Henri Matisse, I might add). In it, he contends “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organisation of forms which give that event its proper expression.” And I couldn’t agree more.

Srinagar, Kashmir, Muslim women on the slopes of Hari Parbal Hill, praying toward the sun rising behind the Himalayas, 1948 | © Henri Cartier- Bresson

Sally Mann

Sally Mann is an American photographer from Lexington, Virginia who stirred incredible controversy in the 1990s for photographs of her children, mostly in the nude on the Virginia farm where Mann still lives with her family. I think the images are incredibly beautiful, touching, and unflinching. I love a little controversy if the source is worthy, and to me, these photographs have most definitely been an inspiring and worthy source for years.

Untitled (Virginia with Trumpet Vine), 1990

Featured image by Emma Tillman.

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Looking for a feeling with Emma Tillman

16.12.2015 | Art | BY:

Intimate, considered and subtle, Emma Tillman’s photographs have had us captivated long before her husband (singer Father John Misty) stepped into the limelight. And whilst she may have earned thousands of new fans after the success of his second album I love you Honeybear, in which she is the proclaimed muse and inspiration for his complex lyrics and idiosyncratic melodies, Tillman’s accolades are all her own.

We caught up with Emma to find out more about her work, photographing love and not getting Instagram.

How did you get into photography?
When I was 12-years-old I took an after school class where the students took pictures and learned how to work in the dark room. My mother gave me a camera that had been hers when she was young and I became obsessed with the medium.

Light and shadow play a strong role in your work, what is it that you’re looking for when you take a picture?
I’m looking for a feeling.

Emma 3

Photography by Emma Tillman

Whether your subject is human or an object, there’s strong sense of intimacy in your photographs. What’s your process when you’re working?
I have a gift for communicating my emotions through the lens of a camera. All photographers who take compelling photographs have this gift. There is a supernatural quality to photography that is not often acknowledged, but in my opinion contains all the undeniable fascination of the medium within it.

Your photographs retain a sense of the individual behind the lens, and often you’re in front of it too. Do you find that photography creates and mythologises a character or uncovers the crux of an individual?
It is both. The moment is raw and alive, but somehow also a vitrine of an experience that is just beyond the viewers reach. It is a clear representation of an individual but yet you must put your own imagination into it to complete the story for yourself. It is mercurial, imagination runs wild. That’s the good stuff.

Emma 8

Photography by Emma Tillman

People regularly revel and empathise with other’s misery but in the photographs that you take of your husband there’s a clear sense of joy and celebration. Do you ever feel conscious of this?
I choose my moments. At this time in my life couldn’t take a photograph of someone I love in pain.

Your self-portraits and portraits of other women reclaim the idea of the gaze, like early Cindy Sherman photographs. There’s a sense of exposure without exploitation. Why is it important for you to capture the female body in this way?
I like to photograph other women naked because it is simple and the lines are lovely. There aren’t any distractions to contend with in the picture. As for photographing myself, I can’t help but be drawn to the endless mystery of it. I come back to it again and again. My own face, my own body. It holds a lot of secrets.

Emma T 1

Photography by Emma Tillman

How has the rise of instagram affected your relationship with the lens, if at all?
Oh I can’t stand Instagram! To say too much about it would be to marginalise myself, but I can say that from Instagram I glean how much our culture relies in the comforts of sentimentality and try to run in the other direction, artistically speaking.

You’ve also worked in film, how was that experience? In terms of story telling, which medium have you found gives you more narrative freedom?
I don’t know if a comparison can be drawn. Film satisfies an urge for me which has always existed, to tell a story. Photography is more playful. The feeling about it changes, the style changes. It is more about  subtraction than addition, which is how I think of film.

Emma 11

Photography by Emma Tillman

What was the last record you listened to?
It’ll be Better by Francis and the Lights.

Favourite equipment to shoot on?
I have a few cameras. A Pentax from the 1970s, A Nikon from the 1980s, a Minolta from the 1990s.

Who are the exciting photographers to watch?
I like the work of Amanda Charchian and Aneta Bartos.

What’re your upcoming projects?
I am finishing a book of photographs, Born with a Disco Ball Soul. I’m also in pre-production on a feature length film I wrote. We’re shooting the film in Summer 2016, in New Orleans.

What’re you looking forward to for the rest of 2016?
My book, my film, and Christmas.

Find all of Emma’s work at lovetheghost.tumblr.com

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