Tarryn Goldman Makes Her Photos Look Like Paintings Without Photoshop

My name is Tarryn Goldman. Proud mother. Passionate photographer. Deep base devotee. Avid bookworm. Information collector. Internet addict. Bourbon-loving sunset junkie. Unofficial graphic designer. Cloud observing dreamer and people watcher of note. That’s me in a nutshell. Photography, to me, is so much more than a job, or just a way to make money. I live, eat, and breathe it. When I am there, camera in hand, borrowing snippets of time, the world becomes such a beautiful place, and it is through my photography that I hope to share my view of the world. So thank you for allowing me into your world, and I hope you enjoy the view from mine.

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When I turned 30 (pretty late in life I know) my father passed away.

I was devastated. I am an only child and he was the hippy creative in my family who showed me that fairies were real and let me know that there was a big, exciting world out there with so much to discover. He was a giant of a man, coming in at just under 6.3 feet and weighing around 130 kg, and I felt his loss by the absence of his huge frame grabbing me for bear hugs on a regular basis.

He had a best friend. They had been best friends since they were 13 years old. His name was Nigel. Nigel walked like my dad and talked like my dad, and when I decided to move from Cape Town in South Africa, where I had grown up, to Johannesburg, Nigel was the only person I knew up there and so we started hanging out. I wanted to be around him as much as possible because he reminded me of my father.

It just so happens that Nigel had been a very successful cameraman and producer for the BBC for a number of years, so it was with great love and affection that, one day, he offered me an old Nikon D100 that he had lying around, just to take some snaps and see if I liked it.

I have always been extremely creative, loving all visual crafts from painting to jewelry making, so I was thrilled at the thought of discovering this new art.

The bug bit, and I fell in love with the medium. After about two weeks, I quit my very stable job in publishing to “become a photographer” and I’ve been trying to figure it out for the last 11 years.

I really love photography. I absolutely adore that it’s half technical skill and half creative trial and error. I love the fact that it is so immediate. I don’t have to wait for paint to dry or for clay to set. I have this desire to create the most beautiful images in the world. I love that I see more now than I ever did before and I understand people more than I ever thought possible. I love that the scope for learning is never-ending and I will always be trying to improve and grow.


The Essential Photography Gear of Tarryn Goldman

My biggest influences are:

  • Bella Kotak
  • Gregory Crewdson
  • Kate Woodman
  • Clay Cook
  • Miss Aniela
  • Melissa Rodwell
  • Joel Grimes
  • Karl Taylor
  • Sue Bryce
  • Gemma Woud-Binnendijk
  • Jennifer B Hudson
  • Jingna  Zhang
  • Kirsty Mitchell
  • Lillian Lu
  • Annie Lebowitz
  • Cheryl Walsh
  • Platon
  • Rose Hardy
  • Anya Anti
  • Richard Avedon
  • Helmut Newton
  • David Bailey
  • Peter Lindbergh
  • Slim Aaron
  • Alexa Sinclair

All of these photographers excel in their craft. They have all created images that make me stop and stare, and that, to me, is a sign of a wonderful image.

That is what I aspire to. The above photographers push me to be better. I am not extremely detail-oriented, which is a terrible flaw I have. The work produced by all of these photographers always makes me stop, take a breath, and actually think about what I am doing. To be present in the moment of where I am.

They have taught me that thinking differently about things is what makes me unique and no one else can do me like me.

I have been shooting for 11 years and I feel so different now than when I started. I have learned to slow down. To trust myself far more than I trust the equipment. I have learned that “my style” is not an actual, tangible thing, it is the way I see the world and present it for everyone to see. 

I feel confident that I can walk into any situation and be comfortable to shoot, and if it’s not working, I’m happy to let the client know because I am confident that I have covered every angle and sometimes things just don’t work.

I am a fast shooter. I tend to move very quickly through a shoot because I know what I’m looking for and once I have it, I’m happy to move on. I am a problem solver and always find a way to get the shot. I am a friendly photographer. One of the reasons I love what I do is that I get to interact with different people, from all walks of life. I can be as solitary as I choose or as loud and in your face as I choose. I am a confident photographer and that has taken years to achieve and I have only learned that through the time and effort I have put into my craft.

To be honest, I am at an in-between stage of gear. I recently moved over from Canon to Fujifilm and I am slightly regretting my decision. I miss the clarity of Canon and the color of Canon. I find that even though Fujifilm is small and compact I miss the ease with which I was able to navigate Canon. I found the interface far more intuitive than Fujifilm. At this moment in time, my camera doesn’t help translate my vision, I feel like I produce work in spite of it. My wish camera would be one that always focuses with pin-sharp accuracy, works brilliantly in low light with hardly any noise and can print as big as a bus without any loss of quality. But I don’t think they have invented that yet.

I used artificial light, all day, every day. I used to be very scared of strobes. I don’t think I owned my first flash until well after three years. But once the bug bit, I was hooked. I feel like using strobes and trying to come to terms with how light works has been a defining moment in my growth as a photographer.

Photography is so important to me because if I weren’t able to get these ideas in my head out into the world, I would literally explode.

What’s typically going through my head really depends on the shoot and many other factors. When I begin conceptualizing a shoot, I always have very grand ideas. I let my imagination run wild but by the time the shoot is happening, I’ve ground down to the nitty-gritty. The essentials of what I need to help me realize my concept.

On the day I’ve often got 20 things running through my mind at one moment. Because I generally style my own images I’m looking over the shoulder of the MUA, making sure that the makeup is what I’m looking for. I’ve got my music on and everyone is chattering and laughing while I’m setting up the lighting. I always try to make sure everyone on my set is in a good space. That is very important to me. I honestly believe that bad karma on a set can really mess the final image up, so I try to keep everything lighthearted and fun. I always make sure that I have communicated my idea to everyone on the set so everyone is on the same page. And then while I’m shooting I tend to get into a flow and nothing is really going on in my mind other than what is right in front of me.

My current project has been something I have been putting together for a while now. And it looks right straight out of the camera. There is no need to do any Photoshop work at all.

This process was a happy accident. It all started with COVID and being stuck at home for a few months. I was looking online for a competition to enter and I found a few. Most of them had different categories to choose from, but I was struggling to understand whether my work should be entered into the conceptual category or the fine art category. I mentioned to a friend how frustrated I was getting and said it as a joke…“If I was to literally take a picture of a painted artwork, would that be considered fine art photography or conceptual photography”

And then the idea just developed from there.

I grew up with my mom and dad reading to me a lot. And as an only child, I spent many many hours playing by myself. I have always treasured any time alone…and I think it’s because of that fact that I have always been drawn to the mystical and magical. I love seeing how far I can push the boundaries between art and photography.

The insane, overriding, absolute need to constantly create motivates me to always shoot.

I honestly think this work is unique. There certainly isn’t much that is similar out there (well not that I have found). It makes you look twice and scratch your head a little. And personally, I think it is really pretty and I like pretty things.

Be sure to check out Tarryn Goldman’s website, Facebook, and Instagram. All images and text by Tarryn Goldman, used with permission. Male model is Schalk Myburg @stylist_schalk

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.