• Words: Kate Neilson // Interview & Images:

This photographer makes her friends cry in the bathroom in the name of art

I think we can all raise our hands to having had a little sob in the bathroom over something or other at a certain point in our lives. You got dumped, you lost someone that you loved or maybe you just arrived home drunk at 3am and found yourself beached on the floor of the shower, unsure about what is it that you're actually crying about.

Tasha Tylee is exploring the tears that are shed on our bathroom floors in her recent series 'Cry Baby', a project in which she invites her friends and loved ones into her bathroom and softly coaxes them into a lull of sadness, taking photos of their responses. She is reclaiming the term 'cry baby' from the clutches of childhood taunting to shine a light on the intimate and vulnerable state that is experienced at a universal level when we let our guard down and allow those tears to flow.

Twenty Something Humans had a chat with Tylee about the process behind the project and why she thinks it's important to let yourself cry every now and then (and we totally agree).

1 Can you tell us a little about your ‘Cry Baby’ series? What lead you to take on this project? Where did the idea sprout from?

“Cry Baby” initiated after a friend contacted me to be part of her group exhibition “The Breakup Party”. The exhibition revolved around the themes of love and loss and we were assigned a different section of the house each. I quickly secured the bathroom as it’s definitely a bit more interesting than exhibiting on a wall. From there the link of bathroom and sadness sparked, the bathroom is a place that sees more tears than most. I wanted to create a series based close to home, so photographing friends came naturally.

2 Crying is often something that we suppress or cover up in order to avoid being perceived as vulnerable or weak. What do you think about this and is the purpose of your work to break down those barriers? I think that’s definitely the case present in society today. I feel like things have progressed a lot in the past 10 years or so with being able to express emotion without as much judgement, but it really depends where in the world you are, on the person and how they have been raised. I’m hoping that by creating this work, people can see that there is strength and beauty in releasing sadness and it’s not something that should be hidden, suppressed or that you should be ashamed of.

The picture perfect lifestyles displayed through social media these days create a false set of standards that a lot of people aspire to achieve. What people don’t see is that everyone is human and has gone through some sort of pain in life. I feel like there is definitely an off balance in society in how we portray ourselves, even I am guilty of portraying myself as someone I'm not and I guess I wanted to help even that out a little and relieve the pressure of always [having to be] being happy.

3 How does it make you feel when you photograph people who are crying or distressed?

It’s really not easy, especially seeing people I love cry and not being able to comfort them but having to encourage them to keep crying. It’s a strange feeling. It was hard keeping back my own tears sometimes, lots of emotions going around. It’s also hard to not feel like I am invading their privacy by having a camera in their face.

4 Do you have any self care practices in place for yourself after shooting and listening to people’s sad/distressing stories? Does it start to weigh you down having so much sadness occupying your life?

I guess I have to really try to not take it too much on board because it can be quite overwhelming having everyone else’s problems on top of my own. It is hard when its people close to you, but in the end I try to be there for them as much as I can. My lifestyle can get pretty busy so as much as I’d love to take a second to decompress there’s usually something else I need to be doing. I’m currently working on balancing that out because I know it’s important to look after myself too.

5 Is this style of intimate portraiture something that you’ve always been interested in doing or has your style as a photographer evolved over the years?

This series is something really new for me; I’m usually a fashion photographer and filmmaker. I always try to have something behind the concept of my fashion editorials but it’s more symbolic versus documenting something real. It’s actually been really refreshing doing this series, so hopefully I can continue along this path.

6 Can you run us through the process of shooting for this particular series?

So all of the shoots but one took place in my bathroom, the light is really beautiful around midday, so I would get each person to come around then. Pretty much every spare day I had for a month I was photographing someone.

I shot the series mostly on just an old pentax 35mm film camera. I’d get most people to start by chopping onions, strangely it didn’t make everyone cry, but it was a good way of getting the tears going and making them feel not as put on the spot.

From there I’d put on any sad music that resonated with them, and ask them to bring up any sad memories. It was interesting when people did really start to cry as there was a definite shift in the atmosphere and were pretty special and intimate moments.

After the shoot, usually I'd have a bit of a chat and send them on their way, sometimes have a cup of tea or wine, or relax and watch a movie. I think I had around 1000 photos to choose from after which isn’t too bad considering I can do that in one fashion shoot. It did make each photo more special, but choosing the finals was really hard.

7 Which is your favourite photo and why?

Ah that’s like picking a favourite child, I love them all dearly. It’s actually really amazing because with other photos I take I get sick of them but I don’t think that will ever be the case for these, as they are to me more than just the picture itself but a reflection of my connection to that person, at one split second of my life.

To check out more of Tasha's work you can visit her website tashatylee.com or follow her on instagram @tashatylee

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