Tamara Dean – The Edge

Tamara Dean

The Edge

Tamara Dean’s practice extends across photography, installation and participatory works exploring the relationship between humans and the natural world and the role ritual plays in our lives. Natural cycles within time and space, life and death, nature and spirituality contribute to her way of investigating and engaging with the world around her.
The action of ‘going to’ and experiencing the location and subsequent ritual is as important as the photographic representation at the end. As put so succinctly by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1884 “Art is the path of the creator to his work.”
‘The Edge’ engages with the informal rites of passage and rituals which young people create for themselves in nature. The primal urge to create rites of passage in a culture where there are very few formal transitionary markers. The initiations, the pushing of physical, spiritual and emotional limits in order to discover one’s sense of self. Jumping into the abyss and confronting fears, seeking a spiritual, transitional experience.



Tamara Dean is an Australian artist whose practice explores the relationship between humans and nature.
In 2013 Dean was selected for the ArtOmi International Artists Residency, New York. Works produced during this residency won first prize in the 2013 New York Photo Awards – Fine Art series category.
Her works have featured in the 2013 ‘Aspettando FotoLeggendo Festival’, Italy; 2012 ‘Fotofever Brussels Art Fair ‘ and 2012 ‘Pingyao Photography Festival’, China.
Solo shows include ‘The Edge, 2014, Only Human, 2012, ‘This too Shall Pass’, 2010, ‘Ritualism and Divine Rites’ 2009.
Dean’s work is held in a number of public and private collections including: ‘Francis J. Greenburger Collection’, New York; ‘The Mordant Family Collection’, Australia; ‘Artbank’, Australia, the ‘Balnaves Collection’, Australia.
Dean’s editorial work is represented by ‘Agence Vu’. Dean was a member of the Oculi photographic collective from 2001-2011.
Dean is represented by Jayne H Baum Gallery NYC, Olsen Irwin Gallery, Sydney.

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Tamara Dean

18 Responses to “Tamara Dean – The Edge”

  • Nice work Tamara, I enjoy the eloquence of the images………….on another note too bad that it isn’t representational of Australian youth of the early 20th century. We are fast growing into a obese in door dwelling nation, the young the old and not so old included.

  • Lovely fantasy, superbly choreographed, lit, photographed and told. And yes, I agree with Imants: eloquent.

  • Nicely lighted pics, no doubt. Gotta be the most joyless swimming hole I’ve ever seen, though. Do they put downers in the water, or what?

  • i agree with Imants as well on the brilliant eloquence of this work….i don’t know about how it lands in terms of being representational or not regarding Australian culture in general…i only know that this work sings with sensuality and the quiet joy of youth….superbly crafted as well….

    go back and look at Tamara on her BurnDiary week….this woman i predict will go far with her work….

    cheers, david

  • Nope, This does not show how the relationship between people and the natural world. There is no way a bunch kids could look this miserable doing that. There is an inherent untruth that I don’t like.

  • If this were a documentary work, I would agree with you, hharry. Indeed, as Mike states, it’s “gotta be the most joyless swimming hole…” And that’s been one of my complaints about so many documentary works presented to make every aspect of their subjects life appear grim and miserable, with hardly a hint of the humor I know resides among all humans.

    But this is not documentary. It is a work in which the photographer goes after her own angst in a natural setting depicting an activity we associate with fun and laughter. I’m pretty sure she has also spent enough time with people like her subjects to see the inner worries and fears beneath even when they laugh and have fun. To emphasize these feelings, she created a fantasy in a fun-by-nature setting and stripped the fun from the expression of her subjects. To me, she succeeded.

  • These swimming holes are not joyless they just are not picture perfect chocolate box come postcard places. They are gritty, wet, dusty, damp, dry,secret caves and places with echos across a space, comfortable within the landscape.
    A lot of these swimming holes are on the fringes of our towns and cities and become places of tribal bonding which eventually fade as we are forced to get on with life, university, careers, children and the narrow visions of our governments.

    This is not documentary work it is about place , ideals, common bonds, no matter how fleeting, stuff that exists in place of and within the social media structures. Places where youth feel a need to gravitate to whether in dreams or in physical activity.

    Maybe this is a very provincial aspect of life that has disappeared for many here……….

  • Always loved Tamara’s work and the “otherworldly” fantasy look in her images.

  • I appreciate the metaphor, or fact in many cases, that young people push their limits and discover one’s sense of self in the outdoors, and when viewed with that in mind, the photographs make sense. Still, it’s not working for me and after giving it some thought I’ve identified two reasons why not.

    First, the uniformly dour look on the models’ faces does not fit with the story as told in the statement. Young people have many different expressions as they confront the world. Even when experiencing teen angst, there’s quite a bit of variety. Here, the look on their faces says more “posing for pictures” than it does “transitional experiences.”

    Second, to me it looks more like a fashion shoot for a trendy clothing store catalog than what is described in the statement. By limiting the model selection pretty, fit, fashionable people, it leaves out huge categories of teen angst and ambition and how those rites of passion are manifested at swimming holes.

    Again, on the positive side, the lighting is incredibly well done, the composition nearly impeccable and the story compelling. And there’s nothing wrong with high-end commercial photography, if that’s what one is aiming for. It’s an art form, no doubt, as well as a good way to get paid for doing photography. But if aiming for something more elevated, the clichés of commercial photography (in this case, sad pretty fashionable people) don’t work, imo. It would need more variety in both expression and models.

  • Gorgeous and elegant and dream like…

    Pictures at Hanging Rock! ;)…

    the sublime light of the sublimated ;)

    been following Tamara’s work since she joining Occuli…and had the pleasure of showing her work in a a projection series I did at the gallery a bunch of years ago…

    since then her work has become increasingly Painterly (she is also a painter)…and i don’t know representational or not, all i know that it speaks of dreams and loss and the essentially melancholy of diving upon our youth has it slips past the hold we and the world once had on it…

    gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous…

    great to See Tamara’s work featured…

    hugs for T!


  • Bob; I agree. As an aside; I reckon Occuli are doing some of the best work around at the moment….

  • Being old enough and living in an highly urbanized environment I like the emotions given by these photos. Ohh, the nature, the youth….the research for a little bit freedom, for experiences…

  • Maybe the whole vibe thing might just be these young people feeling a bit awkward about being art directed when all they want to do is swim/get stoned/get laid.
    If this were an audio recording it would be some edgy twin peaks clone, but if you recorded the audio from these people ‘just hanging out at the lake’ it would surely sound like ‘fun’.
    Very high quality photography (a bit oversaturated in the greens maybe) and I can see why David likes it and why, for sure she is going to go places. But does it do it for me on any emotional/visceral level? not at all.

    Stills from a low budget teen slasher movie. Thought just popped into my head and i thought ‘yes! that what they remind me of’

  • Maybe the whole vibe thing might just be these young people feeling a bit awkward about being art directed when all they want to do is swim/get stoned/get laid………..that’s what I find interesting about the images especially in this selfie absorbed western cultures of ours. The underlying fears and lack of confidence emerge

  • Hi everyone, thank you for your thoughts and feedback on my work.
    It is wonderful to see that it has evoked such a response, whichever side of the fence you sit on.
    Being a very personal series to me and as an artist it is always difficult to hear responses that are cutting and incredibly rewarding to hear when the work has resonated with people.

    I would like to send out a huge thank you to Diego Orlando and Francesca Gennari for putting my work out into the world in both BurnDiary and Burn Magazine, it’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience.

    Thank you Imants, and your point about obesity is one of the many reasons I feel it is important to value these spaces and the activities that teenagers make for themselves in nature. The more we can encourage people, young and old to take time out from our technologically saturated lives, to explore and immerse themselves in nature the healthier we can be. You have articulated my intent incredibly well in your comments. I particularly love…. “They are gritty, wet, dusty, damp, dry, secret caves and places with echos across a space, comfortable within the landscape.”

    Thank you Frostfrog, these are a combination of both staged and spontaneous images, and yes, I have edited them in such a way that I feel portrays a particular sense of ritual and rite of passage.
    There are of course elated moments within scenes like this but I am more interested in the sense of tension and release in say, the moments before the jump, and the palpable sense of fear that people push themselves through to be in what is often an uncomfortable environment. I feel that this is a way that people try to connect with nature, to try to bridge the divide between body and space.

    David Alan Harvey, thank you immensely for your support of my work, your generosity and kind words. Also the opportunity to show this series and to contribute to BurnDiary around Easter.
    You are an absolute inspiration, thank you.

    Mw, thank you for your compliments on the lighting, narrative and composition. Although it’s disappointing to hear that when you when you look at these images you see mostly posed, joyless pictures and fashion. The young people I have photographed have taken me to their special places and are sincerely engaging with their environment. They are very normal teenagers, wearing pretty neutral nondescript neutral clothing.

    Bob, lovely to hear from you and thank you for your support and lovely comments. Hugs back atcha! :)

    Thank you everyone else for taking the time to give me feedback about The Edge.

    I would like to invite anyone who would like to understand my work in more depth to watch this short video about an installation work I created earlier this year called Here-and-Now.


    Kindly, Tamara


  • Thank you, Tamara, for sharing your thoughts and deep feelings with us. You have demonstrated not only your talent and intelligence, but your courage as well. I appreciate all your words. One thing you can be certain of – your talent is immense, as is your passion. I expect you to go far.

  • Tamara, thanks for the thoughtful reply. As you can see from other comments, it wasn’t just me who was struck by the joylessness of the models, and Gladdy also felt it looked art directed, so at least a small part of your audience see’s something along those lines. If that were your intent, which your note to me implies that it wasn’t, then hopefully that kind of feed back is useful. On the other hand, not everyone saw it that way, or felt it was a negative, so if you are comfortable with the way you’ve realized your vision, that’s fine. You can’t please everybody, nor should you hope to.

    I now realize I brought an American-centric view to part of the critique. That’s why the lack of heavy people struck me as not being representative. The fact that no one has any tatoos is weird, as well, to anyone who goes to American water holes.

  • I first read the comments ( note to myself , never do that again ) . To me it is very nice eyecandy , light , color , compo , backdrop and that is it . The message that this is suppose to have I see that more as an afterthought . There is that Ryan McGinley , Lise Sarfati vibe , nostalgic , distant youth of their time thing going on , not very exploring and somewhat contained , sometimes a more looser or daring with bounderies attempt . I do like it but maybe a little less than the gents above me .
    This is also for Miss Rai – Sam .

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