Photographer Tierney Gearon is all about shapes. Combining them and children in her work, she has created freshly appealing images of something that seems so basic, yet is so right now. Here, our West Coast taste-maker-to-the-stars Lara Shriftman catches up with the talent about her new children’s book. Alphabet Book.
When success happens that is well deserved, the world also benefits. Tierney Gearon’s new photography book for young children, Alphabet Book is an example of my theory on success. I first met my dear friend Gearon in 2004 when working on a shoot for The New York Times for my first book Fête Accompli! The shoot, focused on entertaining in private screening rooms, included a great cast of characters, like Hollywood notables Mike De Luca, Patrick Whitesell, Brett Ratner, Stacey Sher and Bill and Eve Gerber. Gearon had just relocated to Los Angeles at that time and I immediately knew we were going to be great friends.
Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with her on many shoots. Specifically, one she shot in my home for Departures, remains very close to my heart, as it included one of my favorite photos of my son Lucas. A mother of four, Gearon has always documented her children, capturing their beauty in an authentically natural way. These spontaneous pictures always seem to have the best results, as do spontaneous events in life, as we all know.
A self-taught photographer, Gearon first exploded onto the art scene in 2001 with Charles Saatchi’s I am a Camera exhibition in London and became an overnight success. Since then she has honed her craft through many exhibitions, special projects, and a film. In 2006 she debuted a body of work called The Mother Project, which shares an intimate view into Gearon’s relationship with her mentally ill mother. Capturing the raw intensity of their dynamic, the work celebrates her free spirit with a documentary of the same title. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and received critical acclaim. In 2009, Gearon exhibited a show, Exposure, with Simon de Pury in his eponymous London gallery. Inspired by the old-fashioned technique of double exposure where two images are shot on the same film while still inside of the camera, she took pictures of herself and laid them atop of other images. It was a magical effect, with no Photoshop or retouching in the creation of the work. Most recently, in 2013 Gearon was asked by New York Times magazine to create a 24-page feature to include 13 Best Actress Oscar nominees, such as Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain and Naomi Watts.
Gearon’s work has been featured in many art and photography books and in 2009 Stedil published her work exclusively in Daddy, Where Are You? and this fall Damiani has published her first book of photography for young children: book of ABC’s, where she explores word association with visually arresting images both children and adults will enjoy. A collaboration between Gearon and her children and friends, she constructs a complete alphabet of images for the new tome.
I caught up with Geron’s busy schedule to learn more about her latest project. When asked what inspired her book with a heavy focus on children, she says, “All of my images are about my family and my life. I wanted to do something that would be fun for the children. My youngest were two and six at the time we started the project.”
The images, unique and individualistic, are full of artistry. “For the next four years I bought tons of props and objects I found that would work for letters in the alphabet,” she recalls. “Then the kids and I would set up play situations and art projects. Anything that could work for a letter in the alphabet and it was a fun collaboration with my kids and their friends.”
There is an old Hollywood axiom of never working with animals or children, since the process can be challenging, but Gearon was undaunted. “It never works to get kids to pose … it is about calculating situations so something special will arise,” she states with confidence of her craft. “Directing subjects without them knowing is key. Otherwise, you will lose the spontaneity.”
Even though it may take a village to raise a child, photographing them is often a solo effort for Gearon. “I work alone, but always collaborate with whomever I can find who is willing to be part of the calculated chaos at the same time.”
When I ask Gearon what’s next for her, she replies, “I want to finish the SHAPECOLOR project. This is a body of work where I build different containers out of colored plastic that construct these amazing colorful shapes. I then shoot people, kids, animals, flowers …whatever I find interesting to be inside these fun shapes I have constructed.”
Tierney Gearon has exhibited in prominent galleries and museums worldwide including Phillips de Pury & Company, Gagosian Gallery, Yossi Milo, Ace Gallery, The Parrish Art Museum and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and her new book, Alphabet Book (Stedil Publishing) and can be found in bookstores and Amazon.com