Within the past 4 years, Tawny Chatmon has redirected her signature style of ethereal sunlit photography into mediums outside of just photography. Tawny is a self taught artist who has been working in the field of photography for the past 16+ years. Born in Tokyo, growing up an ‘army brat’, she had the unique opportunity to take in the cultures of three different continents all before the age of 12. By then she was in the United States and elbow-deep in her aunt’s theatre company. She studied theatrical arts from the age 12 to early adulthood. After briefly attending a dramatic arts conservatory after high school, she switched paths and focused her interests on being behind the camera.
For Chatmon, her photographs are the first layer which she manipulates and unites with other photographic components often lending to them the eyes of someone their elder and more wise and almost always exaggerating their hair. Thereafter she often adds overlappings of gold leaf, paint, digital collage and illustration. Doing so, she produces a work that is more than just a work of photography but a new compositional expression.
She currently resides in Maryland with her husband and three children.
My work and life have gone through many phases that have led me to create the work I do today. I attribute this evolution to three major shifts: The decision to no longer pursue a career in dramatic arts, the birth of my first child, and the death of my father.
Before becoming a photographer, I was a performer. My early childhood consisted of traveling as an "army brat". After settling in the United States, my pre-teens to early adulthood was spent performing in plays put on by my aunt's theater company, dinner theatre programs, school plays, attending acting workshops, and the like. After receiving a small scholarship for dramatic arts in High School I briefly enrolled in a dramatic arts conservatory, was cast in an off-Broadway play, had been an extra in just enough films making me eligible to receive my Union card...and out of nowhere, I quit. Having no idea what to do next or how I would creatively earn a living, I turned to photography.
At 19 I was gifted my first camera. Photography was not new to me although considering it a career choice was. I floated through ages 20-24 self-teaching, exploring with various genres of photography and using my camera as a means of earning a living. During this time, I also began learning photoshop and taking on graphic and web design jobs.
Photographing children was something that never crossed my mind before becoming a mother. After the birth of my son, my life naturally became about documenting his life. Ages 25-28 were almost exclusively dedicated to my joy of photographing him. This expanded to documenting these moments for family members which then lead to offering to do so for other families as well.
My first experience working in commercial photography came after being recommended by a client for a local commercial job. Afterward, I began to pursue other opportunities and was fortunate enough to shoot for (and/or provide images for) companies such as YMCA, Until There's a Cure, National Education Association, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
In 2010, my outlook and relationship with my camera changed when I began photographing my father's battle with cancer. What we thought would be a testimony of his victory turned out to be my documentation of cancer taking his life. Not much felt worthy of picking up my camera for after that. With his passing, something in me died, but something else slowly awakened. I began to think more about the meaning of my life and began to stop solely looking to my camera as a means of making a living and began seeing it as a way to communicate my joy, my pain & my frustration. I began to think more about the world I wanted my children to grow up in versus the world as it is today.
Now 40, I look to photography as the first layer of communication. My work is ever-changing and constantly evolving as am I. The portraits I create today are almost always inspired by my children and my desire to contribute something important to a world I want them to thrive in. Each portrait usually begins as someone that I am close to in some way (my children, Goddaughter, a relative, or a model that I’ve worked with in the past) and by looking outside of traditional photography methods, and experimenting with various art practices, I am able to transform each piece into a new expression. Each being an important, meaningful, and intentional multilayered message. I choose to frame my work in gold vintage, antique, and contemporary baroque style frames that I collect from estate sales, consignment and second-hand shops, galleries, auctions, and private sellers; the majority that previously held artwork of subjects that looked nothing like mine or reminiscent of frames hanging in museums of the past and present.