by Amanda Gorence
Photographer Tami Bone takes us to a place where the otherworldly and familiar unite, a combination that strikes you to the core. She is a captivating storyteller, one who sets a mood so unique and specific that it’s intoxicating. Conjuring up reality and action, Bone reminds us how our memories inform our lives while our imagination fills in the blanks, either comforting our present or fueling our future. We are all afforded the power to create our own stories and perspectives, and those in turn begin to shape our lives. Bone captures these ideas in her deeply personal and narrative photographs, doing so with grace, mood, and mysticism.
Born and raised in deep South Texas, Bone was adopted around the age of 1 by two loving parents, a Presbyterian minister and a school teacher. They lived in Alice, Texas for 12 years before moving to the coast. She learned of her adoption at a very young age. Not only did this elevate the already curious nature of a child, but also ignited the mystery of life and lineage Bone would come to ponder. Growing up, she questioned her world, her place, her roots; “there was a big void when it came to grasping where I came from, and a sense of being dropped out of the sky from nowhere; a feeling of not quite being ‘real’.” After picking up a camera for the first time in her early 30s, photography proved to be a cathartic medium equipped to illustrate the quest for self that pulsed through much of Bone’s life.
Mythos, her aptly titled series, is a beautiful collection of photographs inspired by childhood, memory and the complexities of self and seeker. We think of mythology as a means to explain, to provide context, and to understand how things came to be. It seems appropriate Bone would have chosen such a title for her work. She creates constructed narratives, often weaving together elements from two or three photographs to ful ll her vision. What results are pieces complex and layered, both literally and guratively. Also present are consistent themes of nature and soft focus throughout. Bone channels the open skies and countryside of her youth spent outdoors, and her intentional use of soft focus represents the sometimes obscure and murky boundaries between memory and imagination, while allowing others to apply their own stories to the work.
Bone divides Mythos into three parts: Memoria, Imaginings, and Hopes and Dreams. All elements reminiscent of childhood, Bone finds them still strong and breathing, still alive. The work unfolds as a trilogy dedicated to expressing fragments and gments of Bone’s personal story.
Memoria focuses on memories and girlhood recollections. Despite the boundaries that have been blurred along the way, each image in this subset has been triggered by an occurrence. The Epiphany illustrates a very important moment in Bone’s life, a memory that will forever trump all, and one that released her from years of questioning. The photograph depicts a young girl peering through a set of binoculars, thick fog enveloping her on all sides. In 2001, she spoke with her birth mother on the telephone for the first time. This moment alone was monumental, but Bone also learned that her mother was a photographer, and that she shot with a Hasselblad camera. This struck Bone, for her stylistic preference is to shoot square, a detail reminiscent of the medium-format film custom to Hasselblads. Bone describes this powerful discovery as “a revelation, a flash. My knees buckled. I had a lightning-bolt epiphany experience of seeing clearly through the fog for the first time.” It was a life-changing conversation, and would serve as a huge turning point in Bone’s career as a photographer. Her birth mother gifted the binoculars Bone needed to nally see. is new clarity and vision alleviated that longtime feeling of not being ‘real enough’.
Imaginings is an extension of Bone’s vast and expansive imagination, one cultivated at a very young age. Growing up, she talks about how nothing seemed to be as it really was, “but more of an invitation to an imagined world”. Bone recalls her imaginings ranging from the beautiful to the dark and remembers always having this innate sense of awe. Imaginings embodies naïve thoughts and impossibility, and child-like fear. In Ebenezer, Bone creates a scene thick with mood and mystery. A perfectly antique church sits in the distance balanced by two foreboding birds circling in the fog. The commonplace church represents stability while the birds recall the seeker in all of us, and the haze completes the mysterious and ambiguous nature of the world.
Hopes and Dreams channels a young girl’s longings and wishful thinking, and is the work Bone describes as the most vulnerable and challenging for her. Galileo was one of the earlier images created in Mythos and marks an important moment for her artistically, deciding, “I would give myself full freedom with the camera to express myself,” she says. A child stands alone on the beach, complete with ocean and a descending planet in the background; familiar elements once again tweaked with Bone’s mysticism. The open arms of the solitary child represent Bone at the earliest point in her life as she grappled with the question of where she came from. The image also expresses a sense of discovery, awareness and unfolding of possibility. Such things dreams are made of.
Bone’s work cosmically combines reality and imagination in such an authentic way because that duality was so intertwined in her life. Though much of the mystery of her birth history has been realized, Bone still believes “that given our free will, we have the opportunity to form a myriad of beliefs and attitudes about the so-called realities of our lives, and when we’re looking back on our lives, all that we’re left with are those beliefs and attitudes surrounding our memories.” In many ways, Bone’s work expresses sentiments and concepts many of us can relate to, yet there is something about her moody and ethereal photographs that make them supremely hers. And, perhaps it is just that. Lucky for us we have Bone to tell her story.