Tammy Mercure's work has appeared in the Oxford American, The Bitter Southerner, and the Guardian and in exhibitions at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. She also makes her own photo books. Take a look through her lens at the Halloween revelry of New Orleans and southeast Louisiana.
How did your interest in your medium begin and how did you arrive at your current style?
I always loved photos. One of my earliest memories is seeing photos of JFK's autopsy in one of my Dad's conspiracy books and all the photos in the Guinness Book of World Records, like the man with the longest fingernails. I started college with a slightly practical major, Arts Management, but after my first photography class, I never turned back. After lots of photos and being very nervous approaching people, I am now hooked on portraits and flash.
How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?
Depends on the artist, but I am very influenced by my surroundings. Moving to Tennessee, I was drawn to loud events and people because we were sparsely populated, and in New Orleans I really love the constant noise and now seek out a little quiet corner with someone.
How do you choose your subjects?
I look for people with a quiet confidence, either in their posture or a graceful gesture or a with a certain style.
Who have been some of your biggest influences or your best teachers?
I really love vernacular photos. The beauty of a photo is it is universally understood and mysterious at the same time. I try to be open for learning, from quick conversations with people around town to other photographers.
Do you have a creative or artistic peer group in your area that you're a part of? What opportunities are there for artists like yourself in your area?
New Orleans is filled with awesome people--writers, painters, zine makers, etc.--and big personalities, like neighborhood figures and socialites. There are lots of opportunities to make your own thing or join a group with the many different art scenes around town.
Where do you go to draw inspiration?
I am inspired anytime I am in motion: I'll take a walk, ride my bike, or jump in my car, and I am guaranteed to find something interesting.
Are there any aspects of the Southern aesthetic that you embrace or ones you consciously avoid?
I try to be active with contemporary culture and technical advances in the medium. William Eggleston is awesome, but I get tired of seeing photographs from others that draw from the more static parts of his aesthetic. He's also funny, dramatic, and active, like with his 5x7 work. I strive to understand my surroundings and avoid a lot of the misunderstandings I feel a number of people have about from doing projects here from outside the area. The tenth anniversary of hurricane Katrina was interesting photographically. It seemed like all the stories were either about how the Lower Ninth Ward hasn't totally rebuilt or how New Orleans is now a tech hub or foodie mecca. It was very extreme.
Do you feel creatively satisfied?
Yeah. I think I have embraced a lot of the blue-collar aspects of photography. I am satisfied if I am making photos. I make lots of bad ones, weird ones, and otherwise, but they all get me somewhere. Currently, I'm trying to figure out how to carve out more time to do photography-adjacent things--coding, writing, making videos, and drawing--that would make me more satisfied.
Tell me about a recent, current, or upcoming project or exhibition.
During the month of November I'll have photos at The Front on St. Claude Avenue. Hope everyone can make it to take a look! I forget how much I love prints until I make them.
[Also, if you're in New Orleans this month, check out the Less Than 100 pop-up art shop that Tammy is involved with. The shop sells art and crafts from dozens of women and is raising awareness about wage inequality gap between genders across the nation. -Ed.]