Though I only had the pleasure of meeting Taja’ Mitchem briefly over a cup of tea at Rue De La Course, it was certainly an honor and a privilege. This delightfully sweet, incredibly talented young woman is already someone whose work should be seen by all. She is soft-spoken, but her pictures speak volumes.
Margaret: So where are you from originally?
Taja’: I’m originally from Little Rock, Arkansas. I grew up there but I went to art school in Chicago. I studied photography at School of the Art Institute.
M: Awesome, how long have you been in New Orleans?
T: Five years now.
M: Very nice. What are some of the biggest differences between New Orleans and other places you’ve lived?
T: Umm, I think there’s something very magical about this city. It’s very alluring and not like any other place I’ve ever lived. I feel like it’s a really great place to grow and expand on whatever it is that you’re into. It’s an especially supportive place for art.
M: Absolutely, I’m from here but most people I know that aren’t from here would agree with that. When and how did you first become interested in photography?
T: I was a junior in high school and I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do after high school. I had always been interested in photography but it was more for fun, I didn’t really see myself doing this as a career but I really grew to love it. I would style my mom’s makeup and hair, I would do everything that was needed to bring a concept to reality for a shoot.
M: Did you start with portraits?
T: It was really anything that sparked my interest at first but I love nature so if anything that was probably one of the more common themes. I got more into photographing people as I grew more into the art. So I guess you could say I’m more into portraits now than I was then.
M: Well I noticed you have some gorgeous self-portraits on your Facebook page.
T: Thank you. (laughs)
M: Has there been any person or people in your life that really motivated or inspired you?
T: I could say my Mother is a great role model to me and always has been. She’s very artistically driven. She was in the army, so a lot of her artistic nature was suppressed because she didn’t really get to express herself or her creativity as much as she would have liked. Now that she’s retired, her artistic nature is coming out a lot more so spending time with her is always a very inspirational place to be. She’s a free spirit.
M: That’s really cool! It’s somewhat inspiring in its own right that she’s able to remain so creative and such a free spirit after being in the army for so long. What was your earliest work like in comparison to your current pieces?
T: I guess in the past I was more focused on the fashion industry and it was more fashion driven. Now that I’m older and have a daughter my life has changed a bit and so new concepts have found their way into my work, such as being healthy and taking care of my body.
M: It all kind of connects it seems. That’s awesome. So what was your life like before you moved to New Orleans?
T: I was a wanderer. I had this wandering spirit. I found myself in different places constantly. Now being a mother, I’m trying to ground myself as much as I can for my daughter, which actually helps with my goals ’cause now I’m actually reaching them which wasn’t really happening as a wanderer. I feel like I’m figuring out what my purpose is now, which is good and I feel like this city is helping me to do that.
M: So the city has influenced your personal style?
T: Definitely, I love how vibrant the city is. The most interesting people I have ever met are from New Orleans so I love capturing that essence in my photos. I like for my images to capture a certain intimacy that makes you feel something and provokes a certain feeling.
M: Yeah I agree… from what I’ve seen so far, your photos really evoke the feeling of being there. So I’d say whatever you’re doing, it’s working. So keep it up. (both laugh) Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. I really appreciate it and look forward to what you come up with in the future.
I part ways with Taja’. She thanks me graciously for the interview though I am grateful to her. I briefly say hello to her beautiful family on the way out. This chick is going places. So keep your eyes peeled, New Orleans, for this gem and her work!