TESS MAYER SHOULD be the subject of one of my Notes from Bovina. From that tiny hamlet in the Western Catskills, she’s 17 and already a published photographer. Part of the town’s magic has to be summed up in the fact that it has bred a teenaged photographer as good as she is and essentially untrained. There is a weirdness to her photos that lends them an aching beauty. She calls it her interest in imperfections. However she comes about it, her work has something of Diane Arbus in it or Rineke Dijkstra with her stark pictures of teenagers at the beach (now on view at the Guggenheim in an excellent retrospective of the Dutch photogogrpher’s work). This same directness is present in Tess’s dancers – the dancers in question largely being just one dancer, her sister. In those photos Tess captures that essence of insecurity, those moments around performance where the cracks appear. It gives them an edge of a melancholia that seems truer to the teenaged experience than most of the images, films, etc we’re shown of that time.

I first saw her work on Facebook when her mother posted a picture from the Occupy protests. It was a woman holding a child, a baby, and there was something arresting in it. It captured a moment of hope and loss. Soon, she’s leaving for college, a year early to study photography at NYU at Tisch.

One of Tess's Occupy photos


Here’s what she says about her work:


Currently most of my work revolves around documenting the area around me, mostly involving my sister. Taking pictures of her was, I think, the next natural step from self portraiture. Initially I just occasionally took photos of her spinning around, but then around 3 years ago I focused in on more direct and personal style. I love photographing dance because there’s such a great mix of both control and freedom, you essentially gain freedom from having explicit control and power over your body.

You can see more of her work at her Tumblr blog.











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  1. Christy says:

    Tess’s images get a hold of you and won’t let go. Beautiful work.

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