When I first came across Tara Shannon Thayer’s photography I was struck by her authentic voice. She can tell a good yarn with words and pictures and does so regularly on her blog public::bookstore and on the blog, habit. Her distinct voice and images capture genuine honesty and beauty without any trace of artifice. Filled with light and longing, Tara’s work shines with mystique.

Naturally I wanted to find out more about her work and process and though she’s a busy photographer, writer, and mom to six kids, she found time to chat with me. Pull up a chair, pour some tea, and welcome Tara.

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Tell us a little about your blog, public::bookstore and your collaborative site, habit.

i began my blog when my husband and i opened a small contemporary gallery in 2007 in our hometown. it quickly became more about our home and family than about the gallery, and when we finally closed up shop, in 2010, i kept on writing.

habit is a different story. emily and molly started habit and it quickly became one of my favorite places on the internet and most poignant sources of inspiration. they first asked me to be a guest in may, 2010, and i really…um…took to it? when they asked me last march to join them there for good it meant so very much to me, and now it’s really home.

How did you get into photography?

i like to remind myself that i shot film back in high school with my brother’s canon ae-1, but i really didn’t pick up a camera again until i started blogging. very quickly i became obsessed with old film and polaroid cameras and just shot and shot until i learned the basics and developed a style.

What are your favorite subjects to photograph?

my daughters, with varying degrees of cooperation. tabletops and cats put up less of a fuss.

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Can you describe your photographic style?

soft, lovely, quiet, calm. i think it’s clear i try to capture in a photograph the atmosphere i’d like to be in. i am starting to shoot more documentary style photos of my girls as they get older…i’m less a part of their stories now and more of an observer.

What role does memory play in your photographs?

i said once in a habit post (i think) that i’m taking photographs of the things that are going to break our hearts later on. what i mean by that is that as i’m documenting our family now-my daughters and their friends, our friends and their children, our home and our life-someday these things will be gone, changed, different, and i’ve captured a time and place and people that we will miss forever.

Film or digital — and why?

both. and here’s why: i am a completely untechnical photographer. i know about 10% of what a digital camera can do, and digital initially turned me off for other reasons as well.

film is how i learned everything: i shot a pentax k1000 with a broken light meter for over a year and learned how to judge settings by the seat of my pants. i learned how to adjust for light and shutter speed one new years day with a borrowed hasselblad. i learned how to compose by becoming obsessed with my tag-sale polaroid spectra.

but then one day, a friend leaned over and switched my digital to manual focus, and everything changed. i’m not even kidding. i got a prime 50mm lens and learned how to shoot completely manual with it, and now i think i get some beautiful images with the digital that capture something immediate.

but it will still always be film for me. i just need to find the time and inspiration to shoot again.

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What’s currently in your camera bag?

i have a full time job for which i shoot a Nikon d90 and i also have my d7000 i use daily for habit and just stuff around the house, of the kids, etc…i have a mystery roll in the pentax k1000 — i can’t remember if it’s b&w or color; the light meter’s broken again so who knows what i’m shooting…it’s taken me months to get through it and someday it will be quite an interesting roll to get developed!

i haven’t shot the spectra in a while — since image soft tone film became so hard to get and (even more) expensive. (and i’m still in shock and denial about fuji discontinuing fp 3000b. i can’t even talk about it.)

but my go-to is my yashica mat 124g, loaded with portra 400.

Who/what inspires you?

my daughters. hands down the best spark for me. quiet snapshots of my house, my day. also, being in the thick of the woods, and the drive around the lakes to my office everyday.

Show us a favorite photograph you shot.

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Do you have any photo projects in the works?

none. so many ideas, so many half-baked projects. even my website is outdated AND incomplete. both! i’ve had to work at being inspired lately, for the first time i can remember.

but it will come around again. maybe it’s already coming back around now.

Tell us an illuminating detail about yourself that we may not know from reading your blog…

well, i allude to a lot of difficulties but try to keep the blog somewhat opaque and definitely focused on the good stuff. but my transition over the last two years to working full time and the concurrent explosion of teenage hormones in our house has been extremely challenging to say the least. just trying to keep my sense of humor and recapture some ground for myself.

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Thanks, Tara! It’s been such a pleasure to talk to you and feature your work on Mortal Muses. I look forward to seeing what you come up with next.

To see more of Tara’s work, check out her blog, portfolio, and contributions to habit. You can also find her on flickr and instagram.


Nikki | Art & Lemons