Studio Visit: Francesca Tamse

Francesca Tamse (b. 1989) is an American photographer based in London, UK. Tamse is a recent MA graduate from Royal College of Arts (2016) and holds a BA from the School of Visual Arts NYC. Tamse’s work was included in Capricious’ High Tails in 2014.

What does your process in the studio typically look like and how is it informed/encouraged/constricted by the parameters of the space? 

My studio is revolves around a desk space within a larger studio. This means that the process requires a lot of trial and error, as I can’t arrive at the final work in one moment. I begin by making preliminary photographs, like sketches, with a stand in for a model, which can be friends or people in the shared studio. After which I print cheaply, and begin a kind of workflow, between shooting, printing and making zines, trying to get a sense of the ideas and projects. Through this kind of accumulation I can develop a sense of where I am headed from a scattered and kind of fragmented idea. All of this process equates to tests for the final performance. The studio has its limitations, but this can be productive as it allows me the freedom to be less precious about the single image and focus on the bigger picture at the end.

The work often presents a kind of geographical or metaphorical landscape, how do different spaces and locations affect the landscapes you convey? 

These kinds of landscapes evolve out of a combination of my research. I see a lot of my preliminary photographs as a kind of research, and in combination to this I gather a large number of images from other sources. I am not sure if it is necessarily determined by a space or location per se, at least I don’t think of it in those terms anymore. Sometimes my research will lead me to a landscape I feel is necessary, other times a landscape will inform my work. The process is fluid, so the idea of the geographical or the metaphorical is a result of this flow between what I am researching and what I am making, as well as my life.

How does internet space affect your images? How do you relate to the simultaneous flatness and boundlessness of the virtual? 

The Internet is a minefield, and one I adore and am fascinated by. (I like famous poodles and Shiba Inus on Instagram.) However, I think its necessary to use caution, not only because there is so much out there, but because using it creates different narratives and rhetoric in the work. I use a lot of re­-photographing of images, copying in a sense, and this feels inherent to the Internet. The idea of the Internet’s flatness seems to revolve around this process of copying, which in some ways relates back to photography. I can’t say I have delved into the depths of the Internet and its vastness totally in my practice, but it is something I think about and something I think is very relevant to the now.

Has your understanding of gendered gaze changed from the beginning of your career up to now? 

Yes. The white male’s gaze historically dominates the landscape. As I sought to position myself without this I had to search for methods, such as role­ playing, to deconstruct its position. The further I follow this in my practice the more I have to evolve my views on gendered gaze.

Your practice plays with subtlety in the subversive, using the potential passivity of the female gaze as a political vehicle existing alongside minimal aesthetics. Can you talk about your goals in politically engaging the viewer through these elements? 

I see it as a metaphorical politics. I use the role of the male subject to direct the viewer. Then by positioning them in vulnerable states, looking elsewhere for example, I try to place the male in an objectified position. Whether this appears passively or intentionally I leave up to the viewer, my aim remains to use add to the female gaze by placing the male in roles related to this. At the same time there can be a blurring of lines, or an overlap, between this gaze and that of the homoerotic.

Have there been any recent experimentations or risks that significantly affected your practice? 

I have found myself working with amateur models as an exercise. It is interesting, because without the kind of pre-­knowledge of how to act in front of a camera certain events and roles take on new meanings. Sometimes a campiness appears as a result of the models uncertainty. I like this, it makes my work light hearted yet confident, but it comes with certain dangers. I find this work can contain undertones of issues surrounding class structure, something I wish to undermine. So I have to be cautious to not ill-­represent men and ethnicity, within the work.

Do you have plans for any upcoming personal or collaborative projects? 

Right now, I’m putting together a show next late summer/early Fall in NY. As I continue to build relationships with other artists, I hope in the near future start working alongside and potentially make some shows and publications with. I’m currently working and living in London and looking into ways of collaborating with some projects with my friend, Trine Stephensen, who runs the Plantation Journal. Lets see what happens.

For more information on Francesca’s work check out their website: