Tess Bukowsky is a photographer currently based in Melbourne, Australia. She got her degree in Bachelor of Photography from RMIT University, Melbourne in 2012. Her photo series ‘Come unto me’ is “a quiet observation of the surroundings we unseeingly pass through and the small narratives that exist within these moments”. It was shot around Southern United States’ monumental landscapes.
How did you get into photography? What other forms of arts and expression do you practice?
Like a lot of photographers I started taking pictures for fun when I was a kid. I realized a few years ago how much of my time it occupied and decided to do a bachelors degree in photography. In terms of other art forms – I like to write every now and then.
Basically I take photos that I like to look at. I like to look at an image and want to keep looking at it. It has to resonate with the audience – say something under the surface. I think that’s probably why I have been drawn to shooting the work that I shoot – I prefer timeless subject matter.
A little bit of both really. I spend a lot of time thinking about particular shots but then some just happen by themselves. I try not to worry too much about a precise method and go more by feel. If it’s not working, I’m not going to try and force it.
I lived in the States last year and the series came about quite naturally. I spent most of my time in the South and travelled around the Bible belt extensively and was quite taken with the landscapes. There’s a great sense of longing and abandonment, a want for something.
Come unto me is a biblical quote from Matthew 11:28 and is featured in one of the shots, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. I’m not a religious person but the quote stayed with me and became the focus of the series. It’s the everyday, the small stories and the burdens. I captured people in quiet contemplation going about everyday life and the scenes that they pass through.
I use a Mamiya 7 for everyday shooting and a Pentax 67 for portraiture work. I did have a digital camera once upon a time, but gave it up long ago. I prefer film because it makes me more careful. If I have 10 shots on a roll, I’m going to spend time getting the shot once, maybe twice and then walk away. I won’t take 50 shots of the same thing and then go home and edit the hell out of them and try and find the best one.
I was in Phnom Penh shooting for an NGO and we were in this little street interviewing the sister of a woman who recently passed away from AIDS. I asked to take her picture and she said yes and I took the picture, but then her neighbour comes out and wants me to take a picture of her baby and more people kept coming. One lady dressed her baby up and put earrings on it and everything. Soon enough I had a little line of people taking their turn sitting on this little plastic chair while I took their picture. We ended up getting the photos printed and sending them to the sister to handout to everyone.
The Internet is an invaluable tool as a young emerging artist today in terms of gaining exposure, finding commission work and selling prints. I feel very fortunate to have access to a whole community of other photographers and appreciators from all around the world.
Photography as an industry is changing rapidly, I do find it disheartening that most publications no longer have staff photographers. Everything is freelance and there is also the rise of the “citizen” photographer. But photobooks and self publishing are on the rise, which is very encouraging.
A lot of my work has been based overseas thus far. I’m currently working on a series based around where I grew up in Australia and my relationship with home in a way. Next year I have a trip to South Korea and Mongolia planned!
Please share some of your favourite photographers:
Some of my favourite photographers include Tobias Zielony, Saul Leiter, Joel Sternfeld, Mary Ellen Mark, Lee Grant and Alex Webb.
I recently finished ‘Legend of a Suicide’ by David Vann and Milan Kundera’s ‘Unbearable lightness of being’. Sicario is the most recent film I’ve seen, Benecio del Toro is king. I’ve been listening to a lot of Leon Bridges of late. I’m stoked to be seeing him in January.
Something to say to our readers or aspiring photographers:
Don’t compare your equipment or process to other photographers. You’ll drive yourself mad. Find what works for you and be confident in that.