Interview with Tierney Gearon
Having started out as a model and then a commercial photographer, what inspired you to start photographing yourself and your family?
My photography has helped me work through many issues good and bad in life. Growing up with a mentally ill parent resulted in a lot of unresolved issues. My marriage grounded me, but when it fell a part I started questioning my life and launched on this incredible project documenting my family. I started photographing every person who was related to me on my mother and father’s side. Through this search I started to unravel where my mother’s mental illness came from and where my father came from and how they were realized. My work helped to answer so many questions I didn't know were inside me.
Originally the project started reliving some of my questions, but as I continued to document the children's time and my time with my mother I realized I was taking many repeat images and dealing with all the issues I had as a child growing up: Feeling alone, no sexual boundaries, but also, the good, the humor, and of course, the playfulness.
Photography was something that I fell into by accident and discovered quickly. It’s a medium that I can turn into a way of working with commercially and at the same time it fulfills other needs as well.
In 2001, there was a lot of controversy with the images of your children in the series I am a Camera. How did you deal with the pressure and accusations? Do you feel that this experience may have shaped you as an artist, and/or the way you photograph family now?
As a mother, to be accused as a child pornographer is heart rendering! My images are of my children and immediate family- they encompass purity and innocence and I am very proud of them. I believe darkness is in the eye of the beholder.
How did your series The Mother Project evolve into a documentary? What was it like to view your own photographic process on film?
My agent at the time called Trish, thought it would be a good idea to have someone filming me because so much was going on. When I saw the film and my process it helped me step back and realize some ways that I could improve as a mother.
Has your mother seen the documentary? If so, what does she think of it?
No, my mother has not seen the film- her attention span would not allow for it. She has seen the photos and she likes them.
When you are photographing family members and yourself, do you find the work to be a therapeutic experience for you?
My work is a diary of my soul!
Your most recent project, Explosure, seems to take your family portraiture to a new dimension with double exposure. Why did you choose this particular method for this series? Does the element of chance play a role in these images?
My Explosure series came about when Simone de Pury offered me a gallery show. At the time I was working on nude self-portraits and I thought it would be interesting to add the extra layer. The ‘Explosure’ series was my first body of work created entirely for a show. Chance is always involved with my double exposure images and usually provides nice surprises.
Do these images represent dreams or reality for you, or both?
Both: Dreams and reality meet and become a solid image.