As someone with the approximate artistic ability of a chair, I have always regarded artists as exotic creatures akin to wild animals - transfixing to observe from a safe distance, but ultimately as foreign and mysterious as the unplumbed depths of the Amazon. The delightful Tatanja Ross, girl-boss of her own freelance creative company On Jackson Street and bonafide artist-wild-creature in her own right, is making the secret world of creative folks accessible to average-joes like me through her photography project Thanks For Having Me. To abbreviate it, TFHM is a gorgeous look at the different, colourful and quirky spaces where some of Melbourne’s coolest new art is conceived and later, born.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Tatanja about her project, and it played out a little something like this:
Can you explain to us exactly what the Thanks For Having Me project is, and how it came to be?
Thanks For Having Me is an intimate collection of photographs from studios, homes and creative spaces that I’ve visited around Melbourne. The photographs will eventually form a publication, as I think that tangible objects, in this industry, are an important anchor to this particular time in my creative life.
The photographs shot for this project explore not only the faces behind some very popular artists known in Melbourne, but also the cognitive processes undertaken by them to fuel inspiration, productivity and comfort. I photographed what people had in their studios, how they were laid out, where they put personal things, how their professional and private life collided, what was always in their line of vision, what they have collected, how the light affected their artwork, often their posture and position in the space while working – but most importantly, how I thought their space informed their creative journey and works. I also took a lot of photos of cool pets, which was a pleasant and comforting surprise!
On what basis have you been selecting artists to include in TFHM… who makes the cut?
Many of the people involved in TFHM are friends, mentors and artists that I have interacted with through various types of social media and at creative events. A handful of them are people I have interviewed and photographed before, while many are new friends. My selection process wasn’t this or that, just people who I know don’t mind sharing photos of their studios and homes and artists I wanted to meet. I featured predominantly artists in my field, many illustrators and tactile creators. I have tried to broaden my spectrum a little bit in the past, but at the end of the day this publication is as much about me, and the way I connect with them and their space, as it is about them, so I don’t feel too guilty picking artists I like.
Artists have been letting you into their little creative worlds, but what is your own creative space usually like? Are you particular about it?
My work desks live in my bedroom, but as I live at home with my mum it often spreads to every corner of the house. I’m not particular about how I like to work; as long as I can moderate the noise and tolerate the temperature I can be productive anywhere. On most days I work from bed (the main joy of freelance), a sitting desk for making and a standing desk for admin/computer work. I also like having my dog around, the walls covered in photos and artwork for inspiration, lots of plants and long playlists.
Has anyone you’ve shot so far given you some serious creative space envy?
I’d happily work in any of the spaces I’ve photographed, but I think the appeal lies in the way those particular artists have made their mark. If I were to move all my things in, the context of the space would be completely different. For actual space envy I think Gemma Topliss’ light filled and plant lovin’ CBD studio has been my favourite. Content wise, I think I’d have to pick Callum Addis and Cat Rabbit’s nicely curated home and Beci Orpin’s simply because, well, Beci Orpin.
How long has the TFHM project been in the pipeline, and what is its current timeline looking like?
I started TFHM in April (although it’s only been named Thanks For Having Me for the past 2 months) and as far as a current timeline goes, I don’t have anything set in stone yet. It’s a personal project so sometimes I can dedicate the whole week and sometimes I have to put it aside for a while, but I’ll definitely aim to have it finished this year and hopefully have copies out in the world around November.
To what extent do the artists you’ve been shooting for TFHM inspire you in turn?
Oh, to the utmost extent. I am an enormous fan and supporter of every single person who features in this project, and the hospitality and support they have shown me in return has only made me love them more.
What can you tell us about the freelance life, and your experience working through On Jackson Street?
Honestly, the world of freelance is about balance. You quickly learn what your priorities are, and for me, making big money, having a burgeoning social life and sleeping at normal times aren’t a priority right now. I’ve only just started so I imagine it will become more comfortable, the routines will fall in to place and the admin side will become less intimidating but right now, being outside of my comfort zone is important.