Photographer 'forcing accidents to happen'

Native Atlantan Tierney Gearon blends intention and intuition as she works

The native Atlantan, 46, was working as a commercial photographer in London when she was “discovered” by influential collector and career-maker Charles Saatchi, whom she had met socially.

Though the experience sounds like a Hollywood movie, Gearon recalls the moment matter-of-factly during a recent telephone conversation.

“He said, ‘I’m going to make you famous.’ ”

And he did. Her 2001 exhibition at his gallery, which included some vaguely disturbing nude images of her children, brought the art world — and Scotland Yard — to her door.

Gearon, who now lives in Los Angeles with her four children, continues to exhibit her work at prestigious galleries here and abroad.

But life is never that simple. Gearon grew up in the shadow of her mother’s mental illness. Because of those difficult times, she feels little connection to Atlanta, though she is very close to her family.

“My best memories are family trips,” she says. “We’d meet up in different places around the world.”

Her battle to come to grips with her mother’s illness has marked her adulthood as well. It was the subject of a photographic series, “The Mother Project,” in 2006, and an equally unflinching documentary film.

“Exposure,” her most recent series, represents a very different direction. These images, which go on view at Jackson Fine Art on Oct. 30, are double exposures that she engineers inside the camera — not, she stresses, on the computer with PhotoShop. They merge photos of her children, the many places she’s visited, her commercial work and so forth to typically unsettling effect. Gearon describes the process as a blend of intention and intuition.

“I’m forcing accidents to happen,” she says.

Lecture series

Tierney Gearon

7 p.m., Oct. 29. Hill Auditorium, High Museum.

Free but reservations required. 404-733-4200. www.acpinfo.org

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