• 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. Tomas_werner_dolphins-int-list

    When Tim Berners Lee invented the internet, surely, SURELY he had images like these in mind. Perhaps he had loftier aims, but today this is the sort of thing we’re really after online: pictures of a small, cute, fluffy dog, sitting on things we don’t expect, shot beautifully. The man behind these images is Slovakian photographer Tomas Werner, who took more than 100 pictures of the little Pomeranian in Miami, which have now been drawn together in a book called A Handbook for Dog Walkers published by Gost.

  2. Laurel-golio-dancexplosion-int-list

    After Little Miss Sunshine I feel like the world of American pageantry is something I understand implicitly. Young girls travel the country with their drug-addled grandparents, suicidal uncles and mute brothers desperate to prove their worth as dancers, cheerleaders, singers and acrobats. I assumed that Laurel Golio’s series of photographs at Dance Xplosion might dispel these cinematic myths but it seems this is a fiercely competitive world of high drama and emotion. Laurel’s photos show just how much these kids, as well as their parents, are focussed on success, twerking, tapping and tangoing their way to middle American superstardom.

  3. Andreaslaszlokonrath-neilpatrickharris-int-list

    Photographer Andreas Laszlo Konrath hasn’t been on the site for far too long but there’s two good reasons to rectify that now. Firstly he’s just shot Josh Brolin for the new-look, newly biannual Port magazine and secondly because this year marks a decade since he upped sticks and moved to New York. Andreas has a diverse practice that flits between self-initiated projects and commissioned portraits and he’s equally confident working in either milieu. We’ve decided to focus on his celebrity shots here and his Port covers (both Josh Brolin and Sam Rockwell) are good places to start. There’s something unflinchingly intimate about the eye contact Andreas often captures (see also Ewan McGregor, Kendrick Lamar and a half-naked Neil Patrick Harris) but he’s no one-trick pony, and from Bryan Cranston peering into the middle distance to the top of David Byrne’s head, he has a real talent for making us feel connected to these stars in a very visceral way.

  4. Morganlevy-int-list

    The “commissioned” tab on Colorado-based photographer Morgan Rachel Levy’s website is a pretty diverse place. It spans a project about public schools, a series made in Ferguson following the shooting of Michael Brown and one collection about a map maker for Monocle among others, and nestled happily into the mix is this absolute stonker. 

  5. Farah-al-qasimi-int-list

    Photographer Farah Al Qasimi lives and works between Dubai and New York; her series The World Is Sinking depicts the areas of Dubai that prosperity forgets, all decayed McDonalds signs and bright murals surrounded by detritus. They’re great, I’m not sure if Farah uses high-saturation film or if Dubai is just consistently this sweet shade of saccharin – either way, I’m into it. She captures sand sculptures, bins and empty foyers with real aplomb. Farah graduated from Yale in 2012, and has since exhibited at Fotofest Abu Dhabi, New Yorks School of Visual Arts and the Meridian Art Center in Washington DC.

  6. List

    British photographer Carl Bigmore is living out a childhood obsession with the USA. The Londoner has just rounded off a project called Between Two Mysteries that’s seen him trawling the Pacific Northwest documenting the daily lives of its inhabitants; using personal pop culture references to contextualise the people he meets. “Since settlers followed the perilous Oregon Trail in search of prosperity in the 1800s,” he says, “the American imagination has left its imprint on the landscape. Oregon is forever haunted by the Overlook Hotel in Kubrick’s The Shining and its chilling analysis of the nation’s conflicted soul.”

  7. Gilesduley-legacyofwar-int-list

    A few months ago I had a beer with Giles Duley and conversation turned to what he was up to work-wise. He was relaxed, breezy even, when he told me he was hoping to launch a multi-faceted, multi-platform exploration of the ongoing effects of conflicts after they’ve supposedly ended. It sounded insanely ambitious; it also made whatever my professional plans were at the time seem pathetically puny. But on Friday, Giles’ project Legacy of War became a reality as it reached its £20,000 Kickstarter goal.

  8. Ohpearch-id-4-int_copy

    While casually knocking out impressive videos for Jungle, Oliver Hadlee Pearch has also been building up a fine portfolio of editorial photography. There’s a great atmosphere to his work; humour, poise and the impression that Oliver and his models have their tongues firmly in their cheeks. Even while performing incredible feats of synchronised dancing and photographing golden babes amongst Memphis furniture there’s an enviable sense of ease to his work, or rather confidence in the set-ups and their outcome. It’s refreshing to see someone with such a singular aesthetic running with it, and maintaining it so successfully.

  9. Avblp-ally-capellino-inty-list

    Fashion photographer Agnes Lloyd-Platt’s new lookbook for Ally Capellino’s SS15 campaign is an ode to bathroom dye jobs and co-ordinating your hair with your outfit colour at all times. She paired models with candy-coloured hair in all the best shades – peach, silvery grey, cobalt blue, and mint green – with accessories in corresponding colours.

  10. David-ryle-int-list-2

    It’s rare that mere mortal people can be made to look like superhumans without the aid of some fancy dress, but this series Skihopp (which is Norwegian for ski jump) by photographer David Ryle does it effortlessly. It follows a professional ski jumper as he ascends to the top of an impossibly high structure, pauses for a moment at the top to contemplate what he’s about to undertake, and then jumps, soaring effortlessly through the sky.

  11. Claudialegge-int-2

    Just off the coast of Cancun there is an area of ocean floor that has been transformed into a mysterious sculpture park. Aside from the occasional tourist and bull shark, it’s pretty deserted but for the stone figures scattered in the white sand, placed there by artist Jason deCaires Taylor back in 2009. Claudia Legge, a London-based photographer with a passion/addiction for shooting underwater, found out about this creepy tranquil sculpture park when she was in Mexico and wasted no time in getting below the surface with her camera to check it out. We spoke to her about the pretty breathtaking results of her dive, and the technical difficulties of doing such a shoot.

  12. Sophie-green-a-day-at-the-races-int-list

    “Rain, more rain, drunk people, high people, drum ’n bass, dodgy hair, flat caps, tattoos, gold chains, piercings, sun shine, tank tops, topless chests, slush puppies, hot dogs, chips, chicks, fast cars, pimped out cars, racer boy heaven…”

  13. Ash-thayer-kill-city-int-list-3

    New York City in the early 1990s was dramatically different to how we know it now, if Ash Thayer’s new book Kill City is anything to go by. The Lower East Side was overrun with derelict buildings and dingy corners, and having been kicked out of her Brooklyn apartment Ash came across a welcoming community at a squat called See Skwat. As publisher PowerHouse explains, in that era “squatters took over entire buildings, but these structures were barely habitable. They were overrun with vermin, lacking plumbing, electricity, and even walls, floors, and a roof. Punks and outcasts joined the squatter movement and tackled an epic rebuilding project to create homes for themselves.”