15 Questions With… Tami Aftab

The Dog’s in the Car

How are you at the moment?

I’m happy and grateful everyday that myself, friends and family are all in good health! But as most people I’ve spoken to recently, I’m feeling very aware of the lockdown fatigue and desperately missing the London, and life, I know and love.

What is your morning ritual? How does your day begin?

I start my day with a Vitamin C drink in my joggers, and some breakfast. If I wake up early enough, I do Yoga with Adriene – otherwise I save it for the evening! This has been a much-needed constant in my life since the beginning of the first lockdown.

What, right now, can you see?

Right now I can see the warm glow of my SAD lamp, an elephant made of small mirrors, a butt vase filled with dried flowers, a pile of books both photo and fiction, and my Mamiya RZ67. All from the comfort of my home desk in South-East London.

The Dog’s in the Car

What artist, project, book would you recommend we see/follow?

An artistic duo I’d recommend checking out are the lovely Luke & Nik, they took me under their wing as an assistant a couple of years ago and have been a constant source of inspiration and guidance. I’d also recommend Ronan Mckenzie’s new space, HOME, which is a black owned and artist led multifunctional creative space – it’s currently closed due to lockdown but you can hear more about their first exhibition on the Talk Art podcast.

Tell us about your process when starting a new project

When starting a new project I begin with ideas or nuances that I then visualise. With The Dog’s in the Car, as a family we look out for things that are humorous or interesting that could be captured into an image. For example, the post-it notes around the house that we later made into large, public texts such as “The Dog’s in the Car”, that the title is named after, “Turn the Oven off” and “Put Your Teeth In”. The composition and visuals tend to be thought about after the initial subject matter for me.

What has been your favourite collaboration?

My favourite collaboration has been between dad and I. We seem to work really well together, dad is constantly inspiring me through small acts in our day to day life, and Dad has found a new skill and excitement in being in front of the camera. It’s also been a really lovely and bonding project to do together, I enjoy the open-endedness of it and the mutual benefits we get from creating.

What is your greatest achievement?

An achievement I’ll always remember, would be encouraging dad to start Serfraz Kitchen, our family pop up Pakistani kitchen that began with a restaurant takeover in Camberwell in 2017 where we sold out both nights. Since then we’ve sold out multiple takeovers, and attended many local food festivals. Over the last year this hasn’t been something safe to do, but I look forward to hosting another when things are better.

What is your greatest regret?

I find it important not to look back, or beat myself up about things I could have done differently as it is out of our control. However, I do wish I’d spent more time in the first two years of university making most out of the facilities. I didn’t expect my final year to be cut so short due to strikes and a pandemic! Every now and then I wish I’d gone to that hardcover book binding workshop I skipped, or attended more studio lighting lessons.

What advice would you give to your younger self? 

Be kind to yourself.

What is your latest project about?

My latest project, The Children of the Wildflower, was in collaboration with WePresent. The project explores my grandmother Ethna’s life and childhood in Ballinamore, County Leitrim, Ireland. My mum, aunt, cousin and I travelled there to retrace her footsteps, memories and stories.
We danced down country lanes, rolled down muddy hills, and dipped our hands into the lake next to her childhood home. It was a collaborative, and multi-generational recreation of Ethna, touching on the struggles she faced as a young woman at the time.

What are you researching at the moment?

At the moment I’ve been researching vintage home items such as coloured wine glasses and funky candlestick holders. I think being in the home constantly has got me daydreaming about an ideal living space with large windows, lots of art, and dark wooden floors… one day!

What can you not work without?

People! Either to inspire me or to photograph.

The Children of the Wildflower with WePresent

What challenges have you faced working in your industry?

Sometimes the unpredictability of opportunities can be difficult, both financially and creatively. But this can also be a perk, as there are times when lots of very exciting opportunities seem to come out of nowhere, and when quieter times force you to think about your goals and ideas for the future.

What are you hoping for in 2021?

To hug and hold my friends, partner and family without boundaries! Something I doubt I’ll take for granted ever again.

Share a song with us, what are you listening to at the moment?

Anything, Adrianne Lenker

Tami Aftab is a London-born and based photographer, who graduated from BA Photography at London College of Communication, UAL in the Summer of 2020. Her work touches on subjects of intimacy, performance, and playfulness through the form of portraiture.