Turn your dreams into the next Smithsonian Exhibit

Tara Gautam – Photo Series

Her first  photo shoot may soon be featured in the Smithsonian, yet she doesn’t really know that much about still photography.

For Tara Gautam, inspiration doesn’t come from experience. It comes from being unconscious.

How did you come up with the idea for the photo series “Black on Black?”

I don’t know, I had this feeling and I did it. I get most of my ideas while dreaming. I can control my dreams pretty well. I was in a mine full of coal and my eyes became like a flashlight.  I thought, “that’s super cool.”

I can push myself while dreaming and then wake up and write it down. I’ve written whole stories this way. I have really fucked up dreams.

What made you shoot the underwater pictures “Waterdivas?”

I’ve always wanted to build an underwater tank… so I built it. Then I was like, “Now, I want to take photos.”

I don’t touch up my photos with Photoshop. The photos are the way they are in-camera. For me, it’s a bigger challenge to get the lighting right. Once the lighting is right, then I take the photo.

You’re a filmmaker dabbling into photography. Was it an easy transition?

This is the first photo series I’ve ever done. I’ve never touched a bloody camera before. Normally, I have a director of photographer. I know what looks good, and I know how to light.

I got really embarrassed about it because people keep asking technical questions like, “Did you use this or that?” I don’t know what I did. I just do whatever feels right.

I recently took a photo course. After my classmates saw some of my work, they mocked me. They were like, “This is a basic photo course.” People couldn’t believe that I was taking a beginners class. I really don’t know how the fuck the camera works. They said, “How is that possible? How did you do your underwater shoot?”  I was like, “That’s the first shoot I ever did.”

What kind of makeup did you use?

Actually, that’s a funny story because I was clueless. You have to use water-proof makeup because if you don’t you just end up with one big blur. I had to empty out the whole tank with buckets and fill it back in. I was quite stupid and naive.

For the “Black on Black” it was just black body paint. I shot it in my room with a black backdrop and some Arri lamps with diffusion.

Tara Gautam – "And then there was silence"

Tara Gautam recently directed a documentary produced by NPO (Netherlands Public Broadcasting) titled “En toen was het stil” (And then there was silence).

This documentary explores how European Hindu and Islamic culture deal with divorce.

En toen was het stil Directed by Tara Gautam

The national broadcast in the Netherlands asked me to do a documentary on divorce and how kids react to it in minority groups like in Hindu and Islamic cultures.  Divorce is not allowed in the Gita or the Quran.  They can’t talk about it. They’re ashamed. They ‘re embarrassed.

I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to talk about it on-camera. So, I turned the documentary into a docu-drama. It worked really well. I used actors from the community that had never acted before.  It was a bit of a challenge because they are not professional actors. They are just people who know and understand how it feels. It’s a good way to talk about sensitive topics.

What are you trying to say with this film?

I tried to keep it neutral. It’s not fair for me to say divorce is good or bad. I mean, who am I to say that? The mother character is questioning her religion. The daughter  just wants to please both parents.

I can imagine what they’re going through, but I can’t express it. The script is based off of real people who gave me their diaries. I took 10 different stories and told them through these characters.

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How does it end?

I kept it open. You see the girl in her school and she’s scared to go home. Then you realize that she’s really just waiting for her mom to pick her up. We shot the mom and daughter riding home in a public bus. I’ve always wanted to shoot inside a bus. We shot it guerrilla style.

What kind of feedback did you get?

I got some bad feedback, but I actually like that. I had people say, “How dare you say this happens? You’re half Indian. You can’t do that.” That’s actually really good that some people got offended.

I also got a lot of good feedback, because I dared to show how life after divorce actually is for Islamists and Indians living in Europe.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a adaptation for a film that will begin shooting at the end of the year. I found this amazing writer named Andries Wijnker. I read his stories and I had an instant connection. I could see the movie. I could see it. Then, I started reading the 2nd, the 3rd, the 4th and I was like “Fuck!” I emailed him and said, “I don’t know you but I want to film your book.”

Click here to see more of Tara Gautam’s photography. You can also follow Tara’s film work at MoreFilms.

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