Photo art work is part of who I am, says Tara

Photographer Tara Smyth is originally from South Africa but has lived in Omagh for 19 years.

She is currently exhibiting some of her photographic work as part of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s ‘Art in Your Pocket’ exhibition, which is currently on display at the Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen.

Here she talks to The Impartial Reporter about her journey in art and photography, what inspires her work and what her art means to her.

What is your artistic background? Are you self-taught or did you go to art school / take classes?

I studied a BTEC National Diploma in General Art and Design in Derry between 1991 and 1993 after completing my GCSE in Omagh.

In 2014 I completed BTEC Level 3 in Graphic Design with South West College (SWC) Omagh, and in 2020 I completed NCFE Level 2 in Photography.

What inspires your work?

My current work is inspired by nature and the world around us; everything from landscapes to architecture – see ‘Ashford Estate Cong’ and ‘Mary’s Tree’.

What are your biggest influences?

The biggest influences on my photographic work are Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976), Rinko Kawauchi (1972), Darren Almond (1971) and Thomas Joshua Cooper (1948).

Is there a specific place where you do your work?

As my work mainly concerns photography, at the moment the majority of my work takes place outdoors. I will usually have a camera with me wherever I go, just in case inspiration strikes!

However, I also have a softbox that I use for macro photography, which I set up on my kitchen table.

I use a film scanner and a computer for post-production work; this is also done from the kitchen table.

What has been your most ambitious project to date?

My most ambitious project to date has been my images which are currently on display in the ‘Art in Your Pocket’ exhibition at the Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen; mainly because of the macro aspect of the images, and deciding how to present the images on brushed aluminum to add to their graphic and minimalist aesthetic.

What different art mediums do you use and which is your favorite?

In the past I would have painted and produced monochrome prints in oil, acrylic and watercolor.

After joining the Omagh photography club with my eldest in 2019, I bought my first DSLR camera, and since then I’ve been hooked on the photography process.

I particularly like silver photography. I also like to incorporate mixed media with printed images – see ‘Rhoda’.

What are you currently working on?

Right now I’m working on building up a collection of images using my Holga 120 camera and learning how to process my own film before scanning and digitally developing it.

Do you exhibit your work somewhere?

I am a member of the Solas Art Gallery in Ballinamore where I have exhibited many times, and in 2020 I had a solo exhibition.

I am currently exhibiting as previously mentioned at the Ardhowen Theater as part of the Art in Your Pocket exhibition.

I exhibit regularly at the Strule Arts Center in Omagh, where I held my first solo exhibition in 2017.

I also exhibited with Belfast Exposed 2021.

New artistic adventures planned for 2022?

For 2022, I would like to develop my photographic work and hope to exhibit in the exhibitions of the members of the Solas Art Gallery which will take place throughout the year.

What has been your favorite project so far?

My favorite project so far has definitely been making the jump to analog photography.

I love the whole process and enjoy the challenge of having to slow down and really look before I click the shutter, although I still like to use my digital camera for more graphic images, like my macro work; see ‘Brin’ and ‘Garlic’.

What do you do when you’re not creating art?

When I’m not creating, I like to cook. I’m a big fan of flavors, so I’m always on the lookout for different recipes!

How would you describe your artistic style?

I think my artistic style is two-fold – on the one hand, it’s very dreamlike in atmosphere, especially when it comes to my analog work; on the other hand it is quite graphic and detailed.

There’s also a dramatic feel to it, especially in my post-processing with color and texture.

What does your art represent for you?

My art means a lot to me – it’s part of who I am. After college I took a break from creating for over 20 years and always felt a part of me was missing.

I’m definitely the happiest when I’m creating, and I can only hope that anyone who sees my work can get a feel for it.

Tracey L. Sweeney