ARTIST PROFILE + INTERVIEW: Tayarisha Poe

Artist Profile

Tayarisha Poe is a Philadelphia-based multimedia impresario who works in film, photography, and writes short stories.  She is an intensely creative person who takes inspiration from her own life, childhood, and her imagination in creating deeply felt and vividly rendered works, regardless of medium. She graduated from Swarthmore College in 2012 and can be found writing or working on her stylistically intriguing short films.  Most of all, Tayarisha loves creating stories and "lying creatively."
Birthdate, 2014
Artist Interview

I On the Arts: How did you get started on your journey as an artist?  As a storyteller? 

Tayarisha Poe: When I was a kid, I got in tons of trouble for lying. I just wanted my life to be more interesting than it actually was. I started writing stories and making movies when I realized that life, just any life really, is as interesting as one chooses to present it. All of my stories have me in them. All of the worst parts of me exist in my characters, and all the things I yearn to brag about but which politely society keeps me from doing do too.

IOtA: Each of your works I've seen, from your photographs to your prose, to your films, seems to contain such deeply plotted stories that are only hinted at by the actual works themselves.  How do you come up with your stories?

TP: I always have the problem of having too much to put in. I'm trying to get better at writing short stories and making short films these days, so that I force myself to begin and end in one small pocket of a world. I had a notebook or two filled with this world that I'd created in high school called "Notuli"; that was where I got a lot of my epic, huge storytelling habits out of the way. When I write a short, it is almost always a sliver of what I've actually created for those characters, or that place. Right now, I'm working on a series of shorts that all take place in this small southeastern Pennsylvania town called "Pontomic" (fictional place), and all the characters and stories overlap. I love stories like that.

IOtA: I really love the lighting in your cinematic works, especially in Honey and Trombones.  Has your work in photography influenced your cinematography, or vice versa?  

TP: I like to think that my photography is cinematic. Have you seen La JeteĆ©? Like that, but less dramatic. 

IOtA: What filmmakers influence your aesthetic and style? Photographers? Writers?

TP: Look, I really really really really really love the majority of M. Night Shyamalan's movies. I really do. Lady in the Water might be one of my favorite films of all time. But after he ruined the glory of The Last Airbender, I, like most of the world, felt rather betrayed.  So it's difficult for me to admit to this. However, he's influenced the way I think about stories (is it any surprise that when I was a kid I loved O. Henry's "gotcha!" short stories?).

[Additionally...] everything that Richard Ayoade says or does or creates. Just think of me as a female, less cool Richard Ayoade. Gossip Girl. Wes Anderson's dry wit during dramatic moments. Helen Oyeyemi (her new novel Boy, Snow, Bird FLOORED ME) Christopher Moore, Karen Russell, Tarsem Singh's "The Fall", TONS of British TV shows (Misfits, Skins, Luther, Extras, etc), Spike Jonze... it depends on the mood I'm in. All of these things made me who I am. 

IOtA: Most of your videos are silent.  Are you planning on making more films without dialogue, or do you plan to return to narration or dialogue as in Honey and Trombones [seen below]?

TP: Narration and dialogue DEFINITELY. Probably too much dialogue. I like it that way. I don't like a lot of silence in films. I love voiceovers from an omniscient third person POV; I love mumbled words and sentences that do nothing to further the drama of the story; I love it.  I like movies that remind me of reading a book.

IOtA: What current projects are you working on?

TP: Right now I'm turning one of my short stories, Behold and Wonder, about these kids who accidentally kill an old menace, into a short film. My larger project is called Selah, and the Spades. Here's the current one liner: Selah used to have a gang, and a best friend named Maxxie. This is the story of how she loses both.
Selah Surveys, 2014

Selah, and the Spades. seeks to tell a complex tale about a teenage girl who unapologetically spits on the idea of fitting into that box, and laughs at your attempts to put her there. Quite frankly, I was sick at not seeing any non-white, female, villanious protagonists. It's boring being good and predictable, yet those are the only roles we're given. Either that or we're dumb struck with love. I am sick of love stories, so I'm trying to stay away from them for a bit.  I'm more interested in the dramatic, chaotic, emotional relationships between people who are friends. Friendship breakups hurt just as much, if not more, than those you have with romantic counterparts.

(Author's note: The website for Selah, and the Spades. is: selahandthespades.tumblr.com.)

IOtA: Do you plan on making a sequel to Honey and Trombones from Indiana's point of view?

TP: Maybe. I'll likely turn Honey and Trombones into a mini-series: two parts from Indiana's perspective, two from Louisa.  I love how the BBC comes out with these absolutely dope mini series every now and then with no attachment to continuing them past four great episodes. Television is so amazing. Anyone who says they hate television is a person you shouldn't waste your time with. 

IOtA: Your photography is especially striking.  What artists have influenced your use of color and shadow?

TP: I'm embarrassed to say that I never really enjoyed photography classes. It's difficult for me to think of things in terms of still single moments. It makes more sense to see it as x frames per second, and you've just taken one of those frames out of the major motion picture, dig? Cinematographers have influenced my photography more than still photographers. My favorite of the moment is Andrij Parekh. Oh, but, speaking of Blue Valentine (which he shot) the on set photographer for that was AMAZING: Davi Russo. Just peep the end title sequence: https://vimeo.com/21405272.
Gabi, 2012

IOtA:  Your writings seem based on what seem like personal experiences, especially the humor you find in "Misandry", which could happen on any college campus, and "Helia".  Can you talk about that?

TP: As I said, the characters tend to take the things I don't say, or don't believe for long periods of time, and they run with them. "Helia" takes a bit of my own life, when I was a punk fifth grader being bullied by even more punk fifth graders, and ends up being a bit more courageous than I ever was. It was hard to write, even though it's so short. There are two other parts to it that are still a bit too close to truth for me to want to share yet.

IOtA: What do you hope your viewers take away from the stories you tell, in all the media you tell them in?

TP: I just want people to not only march to the beat of their own drum, but to march to the front of the drumline and punch the lead drummer in the face. Then cause anarchy in the UK. Or something like it. I want people to do bad things and then know how to deal with the fall out from those bad things. 

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