Cookie Magazine © Tara Donne
Tara Donne photographs what she loves: food, travel, friends. The greenmarket, Caribbean heat, lush landscapes and the still moments one catches while resting. Raised in the country but currently a city dweller, she's inspired by both: the pace, the trees, the space of the rural; the interaction, the neighborhoods, the streets of the urban.
Read more at her website.
Barbara Vonderharr: I really appreciate the food images that would, and have appeared in things like Martha Stewart, but I’m really drawn to the food still life images that are mid-meal or after the meal that include more objects. What draws you to photograph also in this manner?
Tara Donne: I think I got into making images like this because of two things. One is my inclination to capture moments (one of the earliest kinds of photography I was drawn to was street photography and people like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Helen Levitt). Sometimes these images you're mentioning are indeed spontaneous and sometimes they're a little more set-up to evoke the kind of feeling you describe; to give the sense of reality or a moment in time. Not entirely different than Cartier-Bresson waiting for "decisive moments" to happen. Second is just that I love food and eating and the sense of family or community that can happen around a table or in a kitchen. Seeing that process of making or eating and implied enjoyment, even without people, is really satisfying.
Barbara Vonderharr: What do you prefer to shoot and why do you think this is?
Tara Donne: I prefer to shoot food and travel first although I enjoy still life and lifestyle very much too. Again, I think its because I love certain roles food plays in culture and history, and also because I like to talk about it on set and learn things for my own culinary endeavors from food stylists and chefs. Travel: for obvious reasons of physically traveling to new places and all that means (learning languages, culture, customs, having experiences with other people) but also to get out of insular (yes, extremely diverse but very predictable and self-centered in many ways) New York. Something about all these tall buildings can make me forget there's a world outside. Travel also keeps my eye sharp -- constantly being in new environments that I often need to coax a story out of and continually frame in an interesting way is good exercise.
Mechanic shop detail in Buenos Aires, Argentina © Tara Donne
Barbara Vonderharr: A lot of your photographs involve travel and I was curious as to if you get sent out on shoots, receive grants, etc.?
Tara Donne: I am sent by clients for specific assignments and always take a couple/few trips on my own each year.
Barbara Vonderharr: Continuing on this notion of travel, do you feel that some of your work ends up being somewhat autobiographical and more personal to you?
Tara Donne: Yes. It’s impossible to avoid that. And I think that viewpoint is why I'm the one being assigned that particular story; editors see what I'm drawn to and excited about and they think of me for similar things. I always complete my shot list as assigned by the client but I think its quite obvious when they receive the film or files what parts of the job I was most excited about and related to more strongly. There will always be lots of variations and more images of those things by default.
BBQ in Boston, MA for Cookie Magazine © Tara Donne
Barbara Vonderharr: Do you feel the experience of travel has greatly enhanced or strengthen your photographic abilities and eye?
Tara Donne: Definitely. Like I said above, the constant travel to new environments where I am expected to quickly grasp a sense of place/the people and then communicate it though a series of images and tell a story has made me quick to problem solve and find interesting compositions or perspectives on sometimes mundane or less-than-beautiful things or places. My job is to make you want to go there even if I feel like I'd never return to that hotel room or restaurant or city in my life! Over the last handful of years my instincts have grown and my eye has gotten much quicker in assessing a situation, editing out the garbage, and coming up with an interesting composition that works with the other images I've taken for that trip or that I anticipate taking based on my shot list.
© Tara Donne
Barbara Vonderharr: What drives you in your work and passion?
Tara Donne: The fact that I'm really lucky to do different things every day, work for myself, work with other great creative people on set, travel and eat delicious food, and meet people I never would have otherwise! I also have been taking pictures since forever, so it makes me happy that there was this seed somewhere in my old Polaroid (that I used to photograph things in my room at about four or five years old) that has taken root and allows me to have such a creative career. It’s reinforcing that it’s really been there since the beginning.
Barbara Vonderharr: What made you fall in love with photography in the first place?
Tara Donne: I think it was just that I liked to look at things and at light, and at how light falls on things (and faces) and contemplate them. I drew a lot in high school and early in college, from life, in a relatively formal but loose manner...but that all just took too long. I was always way more of an immediacy fan and since I was also into documenting moments in time, photography just made more sense.