May 22, 2024

Carry Me Home by Tommie Love

Carry Me Home by Tommie Love

First of all, thank you for being generous with your story. It is admirable and so incredibly valuable.

We love how you have been able to have a voice for your community and represent those who may not be at the point where they want to be in their journey. Out of all the creative ways of output, what drew you to create a photo book?

First and foremost, thank you for having me. It’s definitely full circle from developing my film at Splendid at the start of my photography journey to being interviewed. It's such a pleasure. I think we’re really lucky to create today in this timeline. Information is available at the comfort of our phones, and for me, that's how I learned about photography and learned how to do simple things such as rolling my film canister. We can share our work on Instagram and curate an aesthetic while building an audience. It’s such a wonder how we can do that and build a community as well; I cherish this a lot.
I have used the internet, primarily Instagram, as a student of my craft and have seen how artists, primarily photographers, display their work in a variety of ways, from prints at galleries to printing their work onto clothes. The nature of this practice is inherently fluid with trial & error as the most common theme. I always desire excitement while creating and doing things outside of my comfort zones. So it's fair to say that element in this field spoke to me. It showed me that you can share your message, your art in many forms; you don't need to conform to sharing your work on social media.
It was sometime in 2021 when Rob Tennent had just released his book “I’m Going to Miss You,’ and my, oh my, I got a copy the minute I could and did so at the local bookstore on Jessie St, Good Books. I fell in love with it, being able to engage with his work intimately; he's also just awesome. At that point, I wasn’t thinking of book printing; the idea didn’t feel close, but his book and presence became a symbol that if he could do it, so could I. To come back to your point of being a voice for my community, while I assume you mean my heritage, being from Wellington is what fuels my endeavours. It’s this place that makes me, me, and I’ll carry that with me.

How long did it take to put the book together?

The process of putting ‘Carry Me Home’ together took about two years and some months. It was a slow process with peaks and lows. Ironically, when I pitched it to Ted Whitaker from Blackwaxpress, I was under the impression that it would’ve been the opposite, a quick and self-funded endeavour.
There was such an organic process to the creation of Carry Me Home; I mean looking back, it had to be. It unfolds different facets to my journey, specifically queer and one of becoming. Before the execution of this project, I hadn’t heard of a book about a New Zealand queer African, so I did feel the weight of it. It had to be honest and real because our livelihoods within our diaspora are seen as the antithesis of how and who we should be. I know that if I speak to queer friends across Aotearoa, it's the same thing. I had made this book for us, but also I know we’re not the only ones. I wanted this text to speak to my Middle Eastern, Asian, Latin American, and Polynesian queer folk who feel the weight of existing as a double minority.
I knew I was in the right place with the production of this book with Ted. Again, context, he has produced a plethora of books and has done so for some time. His expertise in book printing, designing, and everything is chef's kiss*, but also in saying that, little did I know at the end of this experience, I didn’t just leave with a book, but also a brother and friend.
Carry Me Home was constantly changing over time, but once we kind of came to a really good draft, we began to uncover the korero around funding it. So it was merely a miracle that the Te Korowai Whetu Social Cohesion fund would back this initiative.
This is where fellow Tafari Creations/Creator Mariyam (@Mariiiy4) came in and shined with her expertise in PR and Management. Mind you, she’s also an incredible model, musician. She kept this ship sailing extremely steady and meticulously managed elements to both the soft launch and launch night. I am extremely grateful for not only her wisdom but her skill set. It most certainly takes a different level of dedication and belief to fill her shoes. You don't understand when I say, she’s just that girl… you’ll see soon enough.



If so, are you wanting to stick with photography based practise or explore different mediums? 

I think my fondness for this craft has more to do with sharing ideas that inspire me. I’m constantly inspired by my friends, my family, and the cute barista at a cafe. I am so inspired by my surroundings and am inspired by my home here in Wellington. This city has such charm, and if you’ve been here, you know what I mean. My art merely reflects my ecosystem, and I’d like to share what it is that I feel while here in my hometown. With me, you can always take the man out of Welly, but you can never take Welly out of the man.
To answer the question, there's always been endless possibilities in exploring different mediums. I’ve never stuck to one thing, and I’d encourage this to artists; there's no need to box yourselves at all. Society tries to do that every day; just live. This practice ought to be enjoyed; don’t make it so that you can’t enjoy it because you boxed yourself.

Walk us through the creative process of making this, were there any challenges or things that were most exciting? 

Of course, the right answer to the most exciting aspect would be receiving the printed books, but in all frankness, it was our book printers in Auckland telling us we would receive our books in time for the Semi-permanent festival here in Wellington. I think the turnaround time was about a week, which was extremely quick and unexpected. We soft-launched this book successfully; however, to me, it did not compare to the joy I felt seeing Ted on stage discussing his expertise with printing alongside some awesome speakers such as Megha Kapoor (Editor of Vogue India) and Becky Hemus (Editor of The Art Paper).


From where you started with this project, is this how you expected to land?

To be fair, it's only just sitting with me that indeed, I am an author and that I have a book. I don’t think I made space for expectations in comparison to the workload that required my full attention.
To be honest, I left expectations a long time ago and have embraced my faith that it will work the way it will. That what is meant to happen shall. I have worked tirelessly and have fought imposter syndrome, but as I've embraced the changes I see based on my efforts and the efforts of those in my community, I am grateful. Art needs to be enjoyed and celebrated by those who also want to share it with others, not the latter.

Within your creative practice, are you going to continue documenting your journey of identity or do you think you want to start exploring different themes?

I’d like to see how I go, but in the meantime, Carry Me Home is a photo book that challenges an individual to look deep within themselves. It's not just a story about a queer African man; it's about family, community, and what inherently makes a Wellingtonian a Wellingtonian. I’d like to encourage that same theme across my life's work, but again, not here to box how I may go about my creative practice.  

To purchase Tommie's Book click here:

Organised and arranged by Abigail Legg


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