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A Studio Visit with Tara Sellios Frances Jakubek


Untitled No. 1 (from the series Impulses) 2012 Right

Sketch for Untitled No. 1 (from the series Impulses) 2012


ara Sellios and I were to become good friends, but this was the first time she had asked me to help her create a photograph. One flight up, we reached her apartment and quickly stepped into her studio. I’m not sure if I expected some sort of dungeon with torches as the only source of light, but I was surprised to find a perfectly neat, bright white studio space in a quaint, Somerville, MA, house. Crisp sunlight cascaded into the room, perfectly illuminating the tables covered in bones, paints, and years of drawings. Religious imagery and totems were scattered throughout, though there was no sense of hierarchy within the space. Delicate bird skeletons were balanced with platters of glistening props, and a mirror reflected back a wall of sketches, signifying the layered process Sellios works within. I looked at the singular table with a board painted red behind it; in my mind I pictured all of the trauma and beauty that had been created on this one tabletop. There were a few options of wine glasses sitting in pairs near the setup, seemingly hopeful to be included in today’s photograph. My personal constraint of not wanting to make a mess was tested when we began to shoot and Sellios had to remind me to let the wine pour in abundance. She disappeared beneath the black cloth of the camera to perfect the frame and set the exposure. I know under the shroud she is experiencing her creation. This image has existed in her mind and she now has the materials, light, and extra hands that she needs to bring it to fruition. So we pour. Between exposures we each open a new bottle.

became a wash of bloody burgundy, but the sunlight felt so soft. Sellios creates exquisite and exaggerated still lifes that are comprised of animal parts, fish, wine and luscious foods. Her work is reminiscent of late 17th century painters, resurrecting the vanitas style by incorporating elements of a feast and the remains. She first creates sketches, meticulously planning out her image, then later photographs the set up with a Zone VI 8x10 camera in her studio. Using only daylight to make the photographs, she controls every aspect of the set to mimic a baroque-style lighting scenario. The images are meticulously detailed, and when viewed up close, the display of wounds and deterioration of her subjects results, says Sellios “in an image that is seductive, forcing the viewer to look, despite its apparent grotesque and morbid nature.” Though she studied photography at The Art Institute of Boston, her inspiration and interest lies in a broad range of art history. Altarpieces have influenced her use of multi-panel images, which allows the viewer to have more than one access point, and artists such as Walton Ford have added to the conversation of predator and prey.

The floor was stained red, wine dripping from the drenched tablecloth... I watched the substance seep into the fresh white linen and take shape around the folds of the fabric and the outline of the glass. Merlot eddies formed around the base of the stemware as the velocity of the streams increased. The table

FALL 2014


Don't Take Pictures Issue 3  

Don’t Take Pictures is a biannual print, online & tablet-ready magazine that celebrates the creativity involved with the making of photograp...