• Soren_t_running-hero_-2012-27x35

    Tabitha Soren: Running, 000014, 2012 27×35 (detail)

Photography

Caught in the headlights: we speak to Tabitha Soren about her drama-laden photography and new show

Posted by Bryony Quinn,

In her twenties Tabitha Soren was one of the faces of MTV News, “a very loud, pressure-filled time for me” she confesses. Now, that time she spent in front of the camera stands as a marked difference to how she uses it today; winking through a lens, working with one frame of narrative-laden potential at a time. We last featured her ongoing Uprooted project, photographs that see her return to the same spots in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina struck, and now with her large-scale Running series on show at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (iMOCA), we caught up with her to hear more about where these dramatic, landscape-interrupted works arrived from.

Hi Tabitha, can you tell us how you came to move from television to photography – had you studied it priorly?

I was born into a US Air Force military family but grew up all over the world. Snapshots were one of the few ways I had to remember the details that made up my life in the last town or base – so I took them incessantly and spent many afternoons cataloguing them.The process of photographing is such a pleasure: my eyes are open. I am receptive, sensing, and at some point, connecting.  It’s thrilling to be outside my mind with my eyes far ahead of my thoughts. No other facet of my life is like that – and television was the opposite of that. As a reporter, I needed to be aggressively seeking a story on deadline.

In my mind, there are also huge similarities. I was shooting video at 30 frames a second. Now I am simply limiting myself to one frame at a time. Also, I am no longer working with breaking news footage. Instead, I am creating things that I want to see but, I hope, there is still a lot of truth in them.

  • Soren_t_running-000823_-2012-24x32

    Tabitha Soren: Running, 000823, 2012 24×32

There is plenty of space for the viewer to read into the Running series as to why and where these people are going – was there a particular concept or fiction when you came to take the first photo?

The first picture developed out of something more random. The atmosphere of a location near a rented house in Hawaii spoke to me. My daughter was willing to get up before dawn to model as long as she didn’t have to change out of her nightgown. I didn’t have lights so I drove the car into the driveway and turned on the headlights. I felt like the running movement made the subject seem like she had something at stake and part of me did feel like I was trapping my daughter inside the frame. Once I saw that picture (Running 444812, 2011), I started thinking about panic, resilience and the role of accident in life.

Also, when people are running their bodies contort and we get to glimpse emotions that are normally kept hidden.  As the series continues, I’m trying to acknowledge the breadth of the world unseen beyond the frame, while caging my subjects inside (as my daughter was in the original image).

The project has expanded into a comment on photography as an art form. The pictures are a combination of constructed artifice and uncontrolled movement.  I am not a runner myself and the project, for me, has little to do with athleticism (My models, however, may disagree because they get such a workout during the shoots!).

“I felt like the running movement made the subject seem like she had something at stake and part of me did feel like I was trapping my daughter inside the frame.”

Tabitha Soren

Is there any significance as to the location or even the runners or how they are running – were they directed as it were?

Photography confronts constructed realities, myths and beliefs and provides what appears to be evidence of a truth. We all just keep shooting until we get something that we can’t ignore. There are multiple truths attached to every image depending on the viewer, the intention of the creator and the context in which it’s presented. I don’t have a particular narrative in mind when I begin shooting. I do direct subjects a bit (no looking at the camera, smiling has never really looked anything but corny but in the beginning I did attempt this) once we agree on the places that they will start running and end running.

What comes to mind is Philip-Lorca DiCorcia’s quote on this subject: “The more specific interpretation suggested by a picture, the less I am happy with it.” That said, I realise that you can’t shoot someone in the Wall Street area of New York City without also bringing up of the tragedy of September 11. However, the subject of that RUNNING picture (Running 000329) is one of my closest friends and because of things that were going on in his life, I let him choose the location, the wardrobe and the time of day. He works in the movie business so I knew he wouldn’t steer me totally wrong. I started with one thought: I wanted him, as I do all my subjects, to look like they had something at stake. Those are the people who interest me in real life and those are the people I want to portray in my art.

  • Soren_t_running-000927_-2012-27x35

    Tabitha Soren: Running 000927, 2012 27×35

Is this exhibition a close to the series and do you plan to continue with it? Any plans to exhibit any of your other series?

The iMOCA exhibit is a beginning to the series, actually. My next project is making a photo book with the Running images and trying to get it published.  That means I’m still shooting people running as well as ancillary images to help readers develop their own narrative ideas for the individual pictures. I’d love for the book to merge into one implied story but I can’t say right know whether or not I’ll be able to pull that off.  I am also very hopeful that I can exhibit the iMOCA RUNNING show somewhere else in the United States or the UK, where my husband and I spend a lot of time and are self-confessed Anglophiles, to be sure.
 
PANIC BEACH is showing at BAYVAN gallery in Oakland, California this summer as well. A much smaller endeavour: 6 C-prints plus one image printed on fabric that is 17-feet-tall and hangs from the ceiling, flowing out in to the floor of the gallery (with any luck, resembling a wave – fingers crossed!),

  • Soren_t_running-001201_-2012--54x64

    Tabitha Soren: Running, 001201, 2012 54×64

  • Soren_t_running-001471_-2012-27x35

    Tabitha Soren: Running, 001471, 2012 27×35

  • Soren_t_running-000014_-2012-27x35

    Tabitha Soren: Running, 000014, 2012 27×35 (detail)

Running will be showing as part of Natural World at the iMOCA until July 21.

Portrait9

Posted by Bryony Quinn

Bryony was It’s Nice That’s first ever intern and worked her way up to assistant online editor before moving on to pursue other interests in the summer of 2012.

Most Recent: Photography View Archive

  1. Main1

    Something very special happens when a lot of time and effort goes into something silly. This new series from Mike Mellia takes the style he’s perfected during his modern artists in the style of old masters project and sees him create one selfie a day that he uploads to his Instagram account. Gently taking the piss out of selfie culture, Mike poses for ludicrous self portraits depending on his outfit of choice with captions such as “That one time I founded the Roman Empire” or “That one time I asked the workers of the world to unite” (best said in a high-pitched American accent). The great thing about this project is its longevity – if this was a one-off photo it wouldn’t be anywhere near as hilarious.

  2. Main

    Olivia Bee is fantastic. We’ve been following her in a non-stalker way for a good few years now, and can report that we were in fact correct in predicting she was going to be big. What’s so great about having a look at her work after a bit of a gap is the realisation that even though she’s been doing a lot more commercial work, her Flickr is still a paean to the wild beauty of youth. Even better, before where her photographs depicted kids on the brink of puberty – clumsily exploring the world and exploring being grown ups – now her subjects (some of them we recognise from before) are now actually approaching adulthood. That includes Olivia too, and these new wild, fizzing photographs are total, unadulterated proof of that.

  3. List

    Emily Kai Bock is the filmmaker responsible for music videos for the likes of Arcade Fire, Grimes and Grizzly Bear, which explains why her eye is so well-trained at spotting the moments she captures in her photography, too. Shooting strangers in the street and yet capturing strangely warm and intimate portraits she seems to form immediate bonds with the people she spots on her travels, from a girl waiting in line to pay for her groceries to a glamorous but frustrated woman crossing the road. There’s something transfixing about the vulnerable but unwavering eye contact her subjects fix on her, almost as though they are the only two people in the scene to recognise her existence. It’s a rare talent, but it seems to come very naturally to Emily, and we can’t help but feel grateful for it.

  4. Main

    “Paradise is on the edge of an industrial estate just north of the M25. It’s also behind a Jobcentre in Manchester. By the bins.” What a difference a poetic opening line of a project caption can make! Oli Kellett sent this project in after the success of his 2011 project where he found street signs around the world that look like British words spelt wrong. Paradise is similarly genius: with the help of Martin McAllister Oli travelled the UK since 2010 photographing any road, street, lane or close that contained the word “paradise” in its title.

  5. List

    If the pseudonym Synchrodogs calls to mind a troupe of people dressed in a trippy barrage of Cyberdog-influenced body suits sprawled across luscious green meadows, in front of waterfalls and crouching on cracked deserts, then you’re on the right track. Tania Shcheglova and Roman Noven have been working under the moniker since 2010, and their unique brand of out-of-this-world fashion photography set in apocalyptic environments has earned them a reputation for making fascinating, if bizarre, imagery.

  6. List

    Entering Alma Haser’s portfolio is very much like going down the proverbial rabbit hole. The young London-based photographer was recently named in the D&AD New Photographers Ones To watch, the latest accolade in a career that’s going from strength to strength.

  7. Main

    London-based brand Heresy presented its new collection this week in the guise of its Autumn Winter 2014 lookbook. Entitled Forming, the collection is a quiet amalgamation of illustration and traditional workwear, combining illustrated elements and hand-drawn type with carefully crafted structural staples made from loop-back jersey and felted wool.

  8. List

    A lot of us will have been there; you’re trying to mow the lawn and you can’t get the ruddy dog to leave you alone. It’s annoying sure, but if I had dedicated my life to God then I might see it as an (al)mightily unfair frustration.

  9. Osmalist

    Helsinki’s finest, photographer Osma Harvilahti, shot this campaign for Finnish designers Marimekko in one afternoon. From the photographs it looks like it must’ve been a deliciously dreamy few hours, all cosy cups of tea and crisp breezes ruffling the blinds, but knowing the intense level of aesthetic precision in Osma’s work, behind-the-scenes might’ve smelled less of flowers and more of frazzled nerves. The result, however, is serenity itself.

  10. List

    The term athlete is actually a vague catch-all word that encompasses a great variety of body types, depending on the specialist’s chosen discipline. This new project from photographer Paul Calver and art director Gem Fletcher celebrates what the pair call “the perfectly imperfect form of an athlete’s body” by focusing on a boxer, a martial artist, a runner, a bodybuilder and a sumo wrestler.

  11. List_

    For me, stumbling across Roger Minick’s archive of photographs of sightseers at tourist destinations is akin to opening an old box in the attic and finding a heap of jewels stashed in it. The Sightseers Series began in 1976, when while teaching photography workshops in Yosemite National Park, Roger was distracted by the hordes of visitors posing for photographs in front of the views.

  12. List

    Photographer Victoria Ling has the kind of portfolio anyone would be envious of, brimming with exquisitely polished photographic work; still life compositions created for high-profile clients and personal projects alike. Her work achieves the kind of ethereal polish that makes you wonder how much of it could possibly real, but the majority of her imagery is all captured in camera, as she explains below…

  13. List

    Voters in Scotland are today deciding whether to swap 300 years of union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland for the nationalist dream of an independent country. The referendum is being held exactly 700 years after the Battle of Bannockburn, where Robert The Bruce defeated the English army of Edward II and every year a re-enactment is held to bring this major historical landmark back to life.