Queer political student activist, writer and image creator Tarryn Naude intersects text and image in a flawless quirk. Image and text become inseparable in a gesture that results in any attempt to view them as single elements divorced from one another failing to reach the impact intended. Taking their visual cues from subtitled foreign films, Tarryn’s subtitled images function as a punchy glimpse into the minds of those they photograph.
Explaining how photography has taken shape in their life they explain that though photography has always been a part of their life, documenting people came initially as a means of fulfilling the role of “Instagram Husband” at events. “…imagery is very important to me but as a writer I wanted to express more.”
The process of creating their subtitled images takes the form of an initial conversation with the individual to be photographed – “to gain insight into how their minds dance”. Thereafter the shutter is pressed down at the opportune moment. When the likeness has been captured, “I ask them certain questions about specific incidents we all experience as humans and derive one line from their responses.” Subtitles are built from these interpersonal interactions after the image has been solidified in the megapixels of a camera.
Backdrops of adolescence come to the fore in certain images lathered with catholic symbolism. Attending a conservative catholic school in Cape Town, Tarryn elaborates on this phase of their life by stating “I think a notable thing about this part of my upbringing was the need and hunger to disrupt and shatter the gleaming surfaces of religious opulence and show a different kind of church. One of pure nakedness and raw honesty.”
Other prominent signifiers in Tarryn’s work is that of queerness, gender expression, mental health and the figure of the witch. Speaking to their work in its entirety they state, “For me queerness transcends just sexual orientation. It’s about gender expression, approach to power structures, and relationships with others. I actively try to queer every part of my life which make the personal, my personal story political by it purely existing. My work is recreating the archive of queerness which has always been a political tool for ‘the norm.’”
Subtitled images, for example, “It’s all in your head. It’s not the end of the world” speaks to mental health. As someone who struggles with their mental health, Tarryn felt that there was a lack of captivating content that represented the difficulties they were facing. “So, I decided I would do this myself through my work. I think by being so vocal about mental health does create a change – perhaps not always positive- as these conversations can be triggering and jarring but there is heightened awareness for sure.”
‘Wearing Midnight’ – a series of images, was born from the mind of Rowallen Vorster who shares the interest to modernize the symbol of the witch and the coven. “Wearing Midnight refers to how queers throughout history have been draped in a cloak of darkness to hide us from view… during the day.”
In accordance with the findings in my piece, The figure of the witch in today’s world, Tarryn identifies strongly with ‘the witch’ as “I spent (probably too much) time a year or two ago researching the witch iconography and discovered that many ‘witches’ burnt at the stake in the 1600s were persecuted not because they were dabbling in dark magic but because they countered how women were meant to behave during that period. I find affirmation in the saying, ‘We are the descendants of those they didn’t burn.’”
Tarryn’s work is a stimulating intersection of topics that range from queerness, gender expression, mental health to the symbol of the witch. They come together and voice the concerns not only of an artist but of a community and addresses social issues within society. Appearing as film stills they evoke power and can be read like snippets of thoughts of different individuals. An honest archive created by queer hands for the queer community, speaks volumes and is just the kind of message us queers need.
For some thought-provoking messages and visuals follow Tarryn on Instagram.