Tara Wray is a photographer, writer, and filmmaker based in rural Vermont, a state in the New England region of the Northeastern United States. She is a regular contributor to Vice, BUST Magazine and is photo editor of the literary journal Hobart. Her new photobook, Too Tired for Sunshine, was recently published by Yoffy Press. Blending decadence of everyday life and insidious phenomenon of depression with surrealist satire, the photographer captures daily absurdities and offer us a both dramatic and humorous perception of life.
Knowing that you are both photographer and filmmaker, instead of asking you about your first steps in visual arts, I would prefer to ask how do you decide each time which medium will you use to tell a story?
I think it’s safe to say I’m officially a retired filmmaker. I’ve done two documentary features -and I’m immensely proud of each-but unless I fall ass backwards into a swimming pool of money, I think I’m done with the expensive marathon that is filmmaking. But I love still photography! I carry my camera with me everywhere I go and I’m always trying to see photographically. I don’t make work everyday but at the very least I think about making work every day, and I read about photography and art everyday.
Can you please tell me when and where the first images of Too Tired for Sunshine were made?
The earliest images from Too Tired for Sunshine were made in 2011 near my home in rural Vermont.
“In Too Tired for Sunshine, I present what I see, as I see it, and my struggles with depression color that vision”.
The pig heart and the white house in the fall leaves were both very early photos. I made them well before I even realized I was working on a series. I was just looking for things that stood out to me as beautiful or absurd or sad or funny or all of those things at once! I’m drawn to intense natural light, small details, and use color to evoke mood, atmosphere, and emotion. I’m compelled to document the mundane and absurd aspects of life, and animals, especially dogs. In Too Tired for Sunshine, I present what I see, as I see it, and my struggles with depression color that vision.
Pictures of animals, especially those with dogs, usually belong to the clichés of photography. Ηowever, in your work they have been used allegorically, positioned very carefully in the sequencing of the book and are key elements of storytelling (as in Alec Soth’s Dog Days respectively). How did they become so important?
I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that dogs give my life meaning and purpose beyond the normal everyday human realm. I don’t believe in God, but dogs are spiritual to me. Looking at them and photographing them is the only tangible way I know to create a record of my soul. Really!
The Too Tired Project was created in response to the positive outpouring of support I received for my photobook Too Tired for Sunshine, in which I documented the beauty, darkness, and absurdity of everyday life, as seen through the lens of my own struggles with depression. The Too Tired Project aims to help those with depression by offering a place for collective creative expression. We hope to reduce the stigma of mental illness and open a dialogue about depression and art. Photographers are encouraged to share their stories related to mental health by using the #tootiredproject on the Instagram.
What are you working on now?
The Too Tired Project was recently invited to create a pop-up slideshow exhibition at Review Santa Fe 2018. We had an open call for one week on Instagram, inviting interested photographers to post an image with the hashtag #tootiredsantafe and we received nearly 700 submissions. Now the Too Tired Project aims to bring pop-up slideshows to cities across the US throughout 2019, leading up to and culminating in the release of a curated book of work selected from submissions to the Project, which will be published by Yoffy Press in 2020.Slideshows throughout the country will follow the same format for submissions: an open call via Instagram. It’s an inclusive idea. Everyone who submits to the shows in their city will be accepted in hopes that people will come out to support each other and hear inspiring stories of the power of photography to help combat depression. The shows themselves will simply require a projector and a dark room, so they can be held just about anywhere. In each city, either myself or a local point person will moderate the show, taking questions of the audience, and making available signed copies of Too Tired for Sunshine.
Working in collaboration with Open Path Psychotherapy Collective, we will provide an introduction to mental health education services for people who are interested. Open Path is a non-profit nationwide network of mental health professionals dedicated to providing affordable, in-office mental health care to clients in need.
More on her website.