We had the good fortune of connecting with Tamrin Ingram and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tamrin, how do you think about risk?
I used to not really think too much about risk, I would just measure my decisions based on what felt right. If I felt that familiar tugging feeling in my gut then I knew that was the right decision, without question. I don’t mean to over-romanticize it or seem like some star struck artist just floating in the wind, but I made a habit of trusting my intuition a long time ago and that’s never led me astray (at least… not too far astray) It wasn’t until recent years that I realized that not everybody makes decisions strictly based on the fluttery feeling in their gut. When I was around 21 I hit a rough spot, I was single, getting ready to graduate college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself and I was terrified (like… literally terrified, of everything) and as afraid as I was of the world I realized that even more than that I was afraid of settling into complacency because I was too scared to go out and do anything. So I started putting myself in situations that terrified me. I started traveling, by myself, with my friends, for work. Any chance I had to get in my jeep and drive or get on an airplane and go somewhere new I would jump at and it was always scary but not as scary as the thought of missing an opportunity because I was afraid to jump when the time came. I put myself in a lot of sink or swim situations, and because of that I got pretty good at swimming.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Let’s see, I am a story teller. I make photographs and I write things, poems and stories and lots of lists. I make work about my family, and my region. I think about the environmental impact of pollution as well as the way it impacts people. I’m from Louisiana, right in the middle of the Cotton Belt and on the outskirts of Cancer Alley, and that comes up in my work a lot. I like to think about everything as a folk tale, so I write stories and make pictures that try and embody that. I like to personify things, trees and mud and dirt and roads and rivers, death and sadness, trauma and loss, and frogs (especially frogs) How did I get to where I am professionally? First I’ll have to figure out exactly WHERE I am professionally. The short version of the story goes like this: I got my BFA at CCAD, four years there taught me how to work. And I do mean WORK, they taught me how to wake up everyday and hustle. Then I was an ice cream photographer for a year, yes you read that correctly, I woke 5 days a week and went to an office and photographed ice cream: on spoons, in bowls, on cones, and every way in between. I worked for Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and learned a lot more about hard work and innovation. Then I went to graduate school for three years at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. This past spring, with just a few weeks to go until thesis install and graduation, covid19 arrived the whole world shut down. Our thesis exhibition was postponed (stay tuned for more info) and graduation was canceled. So I moseyed on home to northeast Louisiana and now I’m a 7th grade English and Language Arts teacher at a rural junior high school here in the Deep South. You could say I’m feeling a bit out of place and maybe a little lost (but who isn’t right now?) Was getting here easy? Absolutely not. In fact there were chapters of the story where I was certain I wouldn’t make it out. But you learn how to buckle down during the hard times, sometimes you just have to put the blinders on and march forward, praying that there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel. Lessons I learned along the way 1. Fake it till you make it (I told myself this at the beginning of every single critique my freshman year of college, and I still tell myself this everyday even now) 2. Shoot through it (like literally, shoot. through. it. pick up the camera and hit the shutter and don’t stop hitting the shutter until you’re on the other side of whatever you feel like is holding you back) And finally 3. Nothing is permanent and you are in control of your life (yes, even during a global pandemic)
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
All of my favorite places in Arizona are outside of city limits. I’m a landscape photographer and a traveler, so a week long itinerary is going to include driving all over the state, eating gas station popsicles, and probably climbing a mountain. East of Phoenix you can find the Apache trail, you’ve got to drive the whole thing and you’ve got to do it in early January, take the Apache trail all the way to Theodore Roosevelt Lake, I think the bridge there is the longest two lane, single span steel arch bridge in North America (I could be wrong… but I’m almost certain I read that) but it’s beautiful! Once you get there head south towards Globe and then head even further south across the mountains near Pinal Peak, if you do it in January there’s a good chance the mountains might be a little snowy, and if you get there around sunset I promise the view will bring tears to your eyes. It’s magical. Another must see are the Vermilion Cliffs, about 4 hours north of Phoenix but well worth the drive. Barry Goldwater Bombing Range (a great place to camp) If you’re down around Tucson and looking for somewhere to explore then head south and drink some mead in Sonoita at the Meading Room, go see the hummingbirds in Patagonia and have another drink at the Wagon Wheel Saloon, then swing over to the San Rafael Valley. I could list a million more nooks and crannies of the Arizona landscape, the point is if you’re visiting the area with me you’re probably going to cover a lot of miles, eat a lot of gas station popsicles, listen to old country music and get very, very lost.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
That’s a big question. I don’t consider myself overly successful at this point but any success that I might have is hands down dedicated to others the people who helped to get me here. My family is my backbone, they definitely don’t always understand what I’m trying to do but they’ve always been there to support it anyway. Especially my dad, he took an insecure 17 year old high school senior and encouraged her to follow her dreams before she even knew what they were. He and my sister have both always had my back, even when I’m certain they thought I was making terrible mistakes with my life, they still cheered me on from the sidelines. I also had a really incredible undergraduate experience at the Columbus College of Art and Design. My peers in undergrad were the most amazing group of young artists, I don’t think any of us knew what we were doing but we were all in it together. I could literally list the entire graduating class from 2016, but the point I need to make is that the stereotype of the lone artist working away in their studio and coming out with a masterpiece is simply not how it works. Surrounding myself by talented, driven, outside-of-the-box thinkers helped me to work harder, push further, and ultimately be better. I don’t think I would be where I am if I hadn’t had friends supporting me along the way. Lastly (note that this is a VERY condensed list of people who have loved, supported, and mentored me along the way) is my faculty from graduate school at the University of Arizona. In case y’all didn’t know the staff and faculty at the U of A are phenomenal. Professors like Sarah Moore, Aaron Coleman, David Taylor, Ellen McMahon, Martina Shenal, Sama Alshaibi, and Frank Gohlke – these people supported me in graduate school. They were (and still are) my family. Graduate school was a mountain that I never would have climbed without them guiding me through it. I don’t think I’ll ever make a picture or install a show without hearing their voices in my head, pushing and guiding me the whole way through it. Frank Gohlke was, and continues to be, my closest mentor. I wish I could accurately express the genuine kindness that radiates from this man. In three years of being his assistance I learned so much about teaching, seeing, and living. He is a timeless piece of photographic history, and always on the forefront of contemporary thought. Everyone deserves a mentor like Frank, someone to show them the kindness and steadiness that I received over the last three years.