Ross School - Senior Project 2007-08

Student: Tara Thesing

Mentor: John Messinger


Title: Meditation

Description: By definition, meditation is “continued or extended thought; reflection; contemplation”. Mediation is a series of images that contemplate death, identity, and growth. The photos are inspired by personal experiences, using metaphors and symbols to convey struggles in my personal journey.


Final Show


For my senior project presentation, I wrote out my speech and prepared a power point showing  slides of my final show. Ten minutes before giving my presentation neo-office quite unexpectedly. Although my computer showed it was able to recover my work successfully, because it was not properly saved all my work was lost. I have my presentation anyway from memory to the best of my ability. My outside consultant was Kerry Swank, a photographer from California. I spoke with her twice earlier in the year about my project and she gave me some ideas on lighting etc...

When I contacted her recently to send her pictures from my show I have yet to get a response or feedback on my work from her. In the beginning my idea for my senior project was to interview various different people of different ages and take portraits of them. I wanted to then connect the people and see what tied them together based on personal struggle and personal growth. As September approached and went on I had done two interviews and found that working around other peoples schedules and finding time to shoot them was challenging. I also had a lot of personal things going on outside of school that were distracting me at the time. So I decided to change my senior project around a bit, and did something that my heart was fully into and related to what I was going through at that time. My father had been diagnosed with small cell lung cancer three years prior and by that September it had spread to the brain and he was dying. So during the last four months of his life I took my camera with me when I would see him and took pictures of him or both of us together. I would set up and focus my camera and take the picture using the self-timer on my camera, or set up the shot and ask someone else to push the button to snap the photo if it was from a special angle.

Due to my personal circumstances my project took much longer than I though and I would have to stop and pick it back up again throughout everything I was doing at the time. I would process my filma nd make contact sheets and 3 x 5 prints to look at my work. At one point there was something wrong with the chemicals and some of my rolls of film came out very thin which made it much harder to print. This was another challenge for me. I wanted to create a series of three different stories. My first story was all about the relationship I had with my father and the complexity of our relationship and his illness. The layout of hanging the pictures was web-like which reflected the chaos of his illness and what I was going through at the time. Yet not one image would go without the other. They were all connected. This was the beginning and the end at the same time. The second series of pictures was all about the emotions I was going through at the time during and after my father's death. They were more conceptual images. This is where I experimented with longer exposures. I used physical gestures and dances with my body to express my emotions. The last series was all about my childhood/adulthood, becoming a woman and letting go of my past and my childhood.

I completed 25 final prints which were matted, framed, and hung. Two series were 11 x 14 prints on fiber paper. The other series were 16 x 20 prints. I had a small opening show were people came to see my work. Books and photographers I researched and used to help me included Laurie Simmons, Eugene Smith, Cindy Sherman, Tierney Gearon and Gary Grenell etc.. Books like Walking, Talking, Crying – Laurie Simmons, and Daddy, Where Are You ? – Tierney Gearon photography. This process proved to be challenging for many personal reasons. However, I learned a lot about lighting and what it takes to set up a good picture and flow, including spontaneity which is all important in photography.  Angles of how you are setting up your shot and how you view the situation you are shooting is also something I acquired. And learning to print  in general and then on large images was another skill I had to learn and became more comfortable with as time went on. It was also a very therapeutic experience printing because printing the photos was not easy emotionally but overall the project helped me process a lot.

Community Member (Details)

Kerry Swank, Photographer