Going beyond Nothing to See. Tim Tadder's bold new project
As American Tim Tadder’s career as a visual storyteller unfolded, he realised that life’s truths never really play out as a storyteller hopes. So, he began to visualise different endings and different frames, contemplating what it meant to make images, instead of take them. Over time, his work became fearless; his images designed to elicit a response every time.
With his series, Nothing to See, Tadder’s images made bold statements about ignorance and social complicity; intending to start a conversation about the current political climate in the United States. The large scale images resonated with people and the collection was shared in galleries in Miami and New York.
Tadder’s work is again eliciting a response with a new series which is an extension of Nothing to See that uses subjects with alopecia to illuminate the human form at its most basic and pure state. The pigment that he adds to each image represents the many different struggles we all feel as humans.
Each image is an interpretation of the different frustrations and hopes Tadder sees in our world. In this series, he collaborated with a very talented team as well as a CGI artist and friend, Mike Campau whose own daughters have alopecia so the imagery took on an even deeper meaning for the team.
What was the inspiration for this project?
Tim Tadder: I think I am moved to just express myself around the craziness that is happening in our country. I feel like we are living in a TV drama. It is surreal. I want to create something for people to think about. I am worried that some people have stopped paying attention and I want to keep them engaged in the political process.
What is your connection to alopecia and why did you choose to raise awareness for this common disease?
Tim Tadder: The answer to this question is twofold. My CGI partner Mike Campau has daughters with alopecia and years ago asked if we could do a personal project together to raise awareness. We just never linked up, but when I did the first round of Nothing to See I needed a bald model to fit the role for the concept. I met Jeana Turner who became famous as the runner-up on America’s Next Top Model, and she has alopecia. It was both striking and completely inspiring to me. So, after Nothing to See, I felt that I wanted to continue to use my skills to amplify my voice to share my concerns about our democracy.
I think in Nothing to See the hairless human form is mannequin-like and represents all of us at the very stripped down core. We are all just forms, and the mannequin has been used to represent us in so many ways. So, for Nothing to See II, I wanted to continue to use the basic human form, and I wanted to use children. So, we searched for subjects with alopecia.
How is this an extension of the Nothing to See collection?
Tim Tadder: The connection to Nothing to See can be seen both in concept and form. Conceptually, it’s still my expression of frustration and my attempts to use my creative platform to continue the discussions I started with Nothing to See; to get more people thinking and talking. Getting the eyeballs on the work through social is important part of these collections. So many people use social [media] to say look at my cool life, look at my cool trip/food/girlfriend/sunset, etc. I want to say, “Hey, wake up. Pay attention, think, talk, discuss.” By using a striking image that is complex and simple all at the same time, I can get people’s attention.
Are these images exactly what you envisioned or did the execution evolve during the process?
Tim Tadder: These image are not exactly what I intended. The execution proved very difficult and the process is still not 100 percent finished – there are more coming – but that’s always the case. These are close. The pigment was very difficult and the body paint difficult as well, so technically it was all challenging. It’s a lot of work to pull these off, so I am grateful to have a team of people that believed in the project and shared their creativity with me. There are always short comings in projects, they never really hit the mark completely, but really it’s just important to push yourself, and failure is part of the creative process. These images have already created discussion, so while they don’t quite meet my goal, they are communicating, so they are successful.
What does the pigment represent?
Tim Tadder: The pigment represents truths. We have this insane new world where truth seems to not matter, I can’t ever remember when a leader could lie without recourse. We have media outlets and thought leaders that think it is OK to spread lies. The pigment represents the grains truths falling away one by one.
Why did you choose the colours you did?
Tim Tadder: The colours are intentional and represent the blue and red of the political landscape. The red states, the blue states, the red white and blue are obviously overt intentionally, as I feel that in order to get through to people it is best to be obvious. Art can be pretentious in its over complex metaphors, etc. so at this time where there is so much noise I think being simple, clean, and direct speaks loudest. My favourite is purple because it introduces the idea of meeting in the middle. Both sides are culpable in our country and we need to find the middle so we can get back on course.
Why include black and white images?
Tim Tadder: They are not black and white images. The models were painted black and white. They represent the division and the binary nature of our society. Everything seems to have sides so I wanted to show that there are tones and greys, and that not everything is black or white.
Poet, hip hop artist and Blindspotting writer, Rafael Casal, said “I’m an artist, so my job is to reflect the times, to provide language for the conversation.” I know you feel the same way, so what response do you hope your work elicits?
Tim Tadder: I just hope people take a moment to connect with the images and what they represent and then are moved to get engaged or stay engaged in our political process. If I can get 100 people to think about the images and then discuss them with someone else, it’s a win. Who knows, maybe they will inspire someone else to create something to keep the conversation going? Maybe they will inspire some to share their story, to volunteer, to vote. It doesn’t really matter as long as it elicits some sort of response.
Tim Tadder, in his own words
While I fell in love with image making as a teen in my father’s darkroom, it was something I learned playing college football that really propelled my career. Hard work yields amazing results - as in the harder I worked towards my goals the more amazing the accomplishments. It's a simple mantra: the harder I work, the luckier I get. As a father, it’s something that I am diligently passing on to my two daughters. Watching them learn that accomplishing anything worthwhile takes commitment, sacrifice, and focus; inspires me to keep pushing towards my goals.
Twenty years ago I left behind a career as a high school teacher and football coach, to follow a dream of being a photographer. I truly started at the bottom, freelancing for community newspapers, then as a photojournalist, and ultimately collaborating on campaigns for the world’s most iconic consumer brands. Each step up is a reward for the countless hours sacrifice put towards my goals. It is said that “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” and nothing could be more true.
Now with each triple bid, I know I am competing with amazing talents. Though I believe that to be distinctive, inspiring, and innovative requires that I put every ounce of energy into the projects awarded to our team. I draw upon my experiences as a teacher and a team player to plan better, problem solve smarter, and push myself, the talent and crew to deliver the very best performances possible.
Success is the cumulative effort of all the little things along the way that make the work great. I am still climbing, scratching, and clawing my way towards being my very best. I still approach every opportunity to make images, both moving and still, with the same passion as my very first assignment. The craft of creating is never lost on me. Today, I am the best version of myself – I’ve evolved into a producer, director, writer, and photographer – a true visual communicator. I am leveraging all the lessons l learned to make shrewder choices, be more efficient, and amplify my effectiveness to communicate.
Tim Tadder is represented by Heather Elder.
Follow Tim Tadder on Instagram.
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