An Interview With: Tasmin Bryden

Who are you and where did you study?

I'm Tasmin Bryden, a young photographer from Northern Ireland. I use photography as a tool to focus on showing an audience about young people living their lives obsessed with their appearance. I studied for three years at Ulster University and I have recently graduated with a BA honours in Fine Art Photography. 

What is your artist statement for the body of work “Utopia“?

Utopia is a project that aims to create it's own fiction based upon the tanning industry. The images have a seductive nature to represent society's strong influence upon us to become someone else's idea of perfection. Even though this is a place of sanctuary and a ritualistic way of life to many people, I personally look upon this as an alien concept and attempted to replicate this within my photography. I find a fascination derived from how we choose to represent ourselves or manipulate our appearances in accordance to what we are shown is beautiful, in an attempt to appear forever young.

Where did your project develop from to end up in these tanning salons?

I have always had a profound fascination with modern world trends, stereotypes and the psychology behind altering the natural appearance. Throughout university I made projects about my own generation and about the rituals young females believe they should be doing in order to fit into a "beautiful" stereotype. I made a small project named Girls in response to this to document the many strange ways the girls would achieve their desired look, attempting to highlight the absurdity. Within the production of this project many of the girls used fake tan as an essential process in their daily routine, igniting my interest for the tanning industry. 

Do you think this project would of worked if it were in black and white?

Utopia represents the bold and seductive nature of the entire beauty industry but of course the main focus being the tanning industry. Without the photographs being in colour the project would lack the atmosphere that the colour creates as its about colour as much as it is about society or people. Colour is a massive part of our modern world and I used this to my advantage to represent the vapid consumerist side of society and as well to represent the change in colour of natural skin tones.

The project is about people, yet none appear in it. Why did you choose to do this?

I actually love creating projects about people and began Utopia as portraits rather than interior documentaries. I planned to begin my project documenting the humanity behind the falseness but it soon further developed into a project about much more than just the people that would use sun beds or fake tan. I quickly realised that I wanted to see the places that they visit begin their transformation process in order become more beautiful or a better version of their prior selves. Shooting the salons I found myself comparing the tanning beds to spaceships therefore I photographed with that in mind, wanting to emphasise the dedication to the transformation of becoming a new being. 

What problems did you face shooting this project?

Shooting this project began as a difficult process while I tried to figure out how to photographically portray vanity, obsession and modern society within the series. I originally started by shooting stripped back portraits taken within a studio environment in an attempt to access one single person's individuality, taking away the stereotype of "tanned" probably a strive to understand the process and the people behind it. While delving further into the project I began to take less photographs due to a fear of taking the wrong angle as I was desperately trying to find the perfect outlet. 

Once I had permission to shoot inside the salons the whole project began to transform into something so much more than I initially intended which became a very exciting result. 

If you had any advice for the readers of The Pupil Sphere what would it be?

I struggled a lot with trying too hard to find the perfect photographic strategy for my concepts. Throughout university this led me to months of planning and indecisiveness. The most important thing anyone should do when trying to find their output is to practice by taking as many photographs as you can from the very beginning of your process to begin working out how you see through your lens. Fundamentally, the vital thing a photographer can do is to be themselves and have the patience to figure out what that means.


All images copyright of Tasmin Bryden.


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