The freelance photographer and filmmaker Tasha Tylee was raised in New Zealand where she received a certificate of Film and Television Production at the New Zealand Film and Television School. She wanted to become a documentary filmmaker, but her plan changed. The fashion industry caught her attention so she decided to change direction and swapped her video camera for a photo camera. Now Tasha is documenting people in order to create more awareness on the issues we got in the world. She’s living in Melbourne but to find inspiration in light, color and surrealism she is travelling around the world. We spoke with Tasha about her projects, her vision and her future.
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You captured your friends and (ex) lovers in your bathroom while they were crying for a project called Cry Baby. The question that everybody wants to know: were the tears real? Can you tell us more about the project? How was the process of making them cry? And why did you choose for the bathroom? 
It was really a mix of real tears and tears that weren’t quite there yet, to be able to make someone cry on demand is quite a task and is really determined a lot by the individual. Cry Baby was a project that was created for a friend’s exhibition – The Breakup Party. The exhibition was to take place in a house with each of us assigned different rooms, the content was to be based around love and loss. I was drawn to the bathroom and for me the bathroom can be a place of extreme sadness. I’m sure most people have experienced crying in the shower or locking themselves in a bathroom cubicle to cry; it’s really something that resonates with everyone. From there I decided to do a series of portraits of friends and ex/lovers crying. It was a bit of an odd thing to be like “hey can you come around to my house and cry in my bathroom while I photograph you?” Luckily everyone was really supportive of the project and willing to be involved. The process of making them cry was a tricky one, it can be quite intimidating for someone to really open up like that and just cry, so I found a fun way of easing them into it. I figured if I can get them to fake cry first and get the tears flowing, the transition into actually crying would be a lot easier, and the humour of it would make them feel a little more comfortable. From there I’d ask if there were any songs that may trigger tears or if they could bring up some emotions that may let the tears flow. For some people as soon as a song started playing there was a transition into the real emotion, others took a little longer.
A lot of people see crying as a weakness, others see it as a strength. What does crying mean to you? Why did you want to capture people while they were crying?
There seems to be such a stigma behind crying; from a young age, we’re known as weak if we cry, playground taunts of being called a ‘cry baby’ establishes in us that crying is something we should supress. A large majority of my generation’s parents have been raised in a society where one should not express feelings of sadness, particularly in men, crying is for the weak – “men should be strong and stable and provide to their loving wife”. I feel this has been passed down from generation to generation. Only recently I feel that expressing our emotions and crying has become a lot more acceptable and encouraged. Society is changing but there is still a long way to go. In terms of Australia there is definitely a positive shift, but look at some other countries in the world and you see little to no progression. In creating this series, I wanted to reach out and encourage people to let out those supressed emotions. Crying is not weak, it represents strength, courage and the transition to healing. The series was also a form of self-expression for myself, letting out my own tears that have been supressed through my adolescence.
I can imagine that it must be hard seeing them in that vulnerable status. Instead of comfort your friends you had to make pictures of them. It must be a super intensive session. Did you have to cry for yourself during the photo shoot?
It was quite a challenge, it was so tough to continue to take their photo when all I wanted to do was give them a giant cuddle, it was quite an intense situation really, but in a great way. It formed even stronger relationships with all of my subjects and I was really honoured to have everyone put so much trust in opening up to me. There were a few times I was crying at the same time, taking photos crying wasn’t easy, ended up in far too many out of focus shots!
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The project lasted for a month, how did you feel after?
I felt really inspired after this project, it was something completely different for me and I really enjoyed everything about it from start to finish. I would have loved to have continued the series on, but with the deadline of the exhibition I decided that would be the right end point.
You are a fashion photographer, but for this project you changed your direction completely to an intimate documentary photography. Do you want to go further with this? Do you see a future for yourself as a documentary photographer?
I think it was a much-needed change. I originally studied film with hopes of becoming a documentary filmmaker, after studying I ended up steering more into the fashion industry, which I don’t think was the wrong decision as that has helped me define my style. Fashion is such a beautifully visual art form, and this has helped me really define what I like. I think moving into documentary now, my work has a certain look that I wouldn’t have achieved if I had moved into it straight after study. I’ll definitely be continuing down the documentary path, although I won’t be dropping fashion, I always like to do a bit of everything. 
Another project you shot that we were very impressed by was Hyohaku Shimashita for Pitch magazine. It looks like you were travelling in time, can you tell us something more about the series? What is the story behind it?
I’ve always had a love for imagery which is quite surreal, I think growing up on a large farm in New Zealand really made me quite an imaginative person. I was always imagining my surroundings as something from another land. Perhaps being so secluded encouraged my desire to escape and transport to another place. For the series, I wanted to combine Japanese colors, styling and pale pearlescent geisha-like makeup, with surreal aspects of sculpture art. I was at a stage where I was really interested in warping imagery through destruction, so for these I used bleach on prints to create the red streaks.
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Then we have the series you shot called Young Immigrants. With everything going on in the world with Trump and the Mexican wall, how did it feel capturing these people?
It was a privilege to be able to shoot that series for i-D, I think it’s really important to raise awareness how much immigrants benefit society, and how they are just everyday people. Nobody should be discriminated against based on ethnicity and I think everything about Trump is absurd and quite scary.
Can you tell us something more about the project? What was the reason you wanted to shoot a series about immigrants?
I was actually approached by i-D to work with writer Jonothan Brian on the series. Immigration is an issue that’s very much present in our current political situation here in Australia and across the world such as America. There are over 1000 immigrants who have made their way to Australia and are being held at offshore detention centres such as Nauru, living in conditions that barely meet basic human rights. In making this series we are really wanting to fight for the immigrants to be let in, currently a deal has been made to let approved immigrants into the USA so I’m staying hopeful.
You are a conceptual photographer, a storyteller. Is there a subject you still want to expose through your photos?
There are really so many it’s a little overwhelming. I’m at the point where I really don’t know where to start, there are so many issues in the world I would like to cover and bring awareness to. In a way, I feel a little helpless. I’m lucky to be surrounded by a lot of passionate individuals. I wouldn’t call myself well educated in politics and current affairs, so I think teaming up with those more knowledgeable than myself is a great move. I’m just waiting for an idea to strike at the moment, I’ll be travelling through Europe May-July so I’m sure I’ll come back with so many photos.
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