Tammy Mercure has an MFA from East Tennessee State University, and is currently residing in Bristol Tennessee.
How quick are your interactions when photographing individuals? How much time is needed to consider your subjects with in the frame?
I generally spend just a couple moments with the people I photograph. Usually, I pick out the most interesting person from a group or crowd and walk up and tell them what I like about them and ask if I can make their portrait. Then I get a couple frames and thank them. I shoot fairly quick.
Do your subjects transform in front of the camera?
I would describe it as them letting me appreciate what they are doing or having one of their qualities amplified. I love people who are passionate about things and if I tell them what I like about what they are doing or wearing or how they are, I think they exude that for a moment. I am addicted to photographing people because of the potential for being surprised. I love an unexpected gesture or look.
Where does edit and order fit into the experience of seeing your work, how does your blog relate to your process? Is it good for your viewer to see the rolling development of your art making through your blog?
Selfishly, my tumblr helps me think about my work being able to scroll through it easily and I have fun making edits after a long day shooting. It also takes some of the pressure off to make all the work fit neatly into one tight project. I fluctuate in thinking I have one giant project and 50 smaller ones. I’m okay continuing like this until I’m old and gray making shorter books and daily edits and long, sprawling narratives.
Tumblr has been an overwhelming positive experience and as a benefit, I have gotten to know some great photographers and feel invested in many projects that I see coming across my dashboard. I have my main website and hope that if people want to see new work as it comes in that they keep up with my blog.
Do your pictures shine a negative or positive light? Or somewhere in between? Is this your view or an objective one?
I only get excited about shooting things I am into. I have tried photographing things I actively dislike, like car salesmen(!), and I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. So, I would say they are mostly sunny. I think all photographs are overwhelming subjective. I am attracted to certain people and places and make unconscious decisions while I am shooting and more conscious decisions when I edit.
In your pictures of the South, everything is an extreme. There hardly seems to be something not garish or at a tipping point of ridiculousness. How is this important to the persona of the South? To your image making?
I think all of America celebrates eccentricity in some way and in the South it is very visual and often big. I like people with a sense of self and a sense of humor- most things in life are important and silly at the same time.
I really love reading, especially short stories. Two of my favorite short stories are Raymond Carver’s “Feathers” where a peacock is a big part of the story and Cheever’s “Goodbye, My Brother” where a striking thing happens at the end. I hope my best photos have the economy of a short story and that same extreme punch.
You mention that people tend to attempt to be productive during their leisure time. Is this because they find their daily work unproductive and wasteful? How does this relate to you as an artist?
The people I shoot identify with the things and activities they love and not their job title. I don’t think people necessarily think negatively about their job, but it is in service of funding their leisure time. As Loverboy so aptly croons, “everybody’s working for the weekend.”
I enjoy the blue collar-ness of photography and I like feeling productive. I set up schedules for myself, like my book a month and making edits and shooting as much as possible. I feel fortunate that teaching allows me to never feel like I’m working-working. On the best days, I am talking about photographs and photographers or helping a student build a website or doing a project in the community.
Ask yourself a question and respond.
Who you going for? (Which NASCAR driver is your favorite?)
I’ve been a long time Kyle Busch fan, but at the last two Bristol races Denny Hamlin came out and danced during driver introductions. He was akward and beautiful and he is now my new favorite.
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