46 : City Witch
As Tess reaches for their embroidery supplies, Miles’ ears perk right up. Before Tess had even made the final selection of which items to pull down from the shelf, Miles was walking his black cat self over to the red couch. Before long, Tess and Miles are settled in for a co-working session with Tess making X’s and Miles making Z's. I guess it’s really more Tess working and Miles dozing. As Tess works, their entire body shifts into focus. Tess is someone who switches topics betweens sentences, so I’m surprised by the level of concentration they dedicate to their work. They explain to me that the manual attention that their embroidery work demands brings them a level of calm like few other activities.
Tess Giberson is City Witch, an Ottawa artist and activist. Tess makes everything from small items like pins and patches, to larger items like scented candles, pentagram pots for earth pals, and intricate pieces of embroidery. Although the items themselves are diverse, Tess’ artistic creations are unified around a witchy aesthetic, and use energy and intention throughout. Tess also offers spells and tarot readings. Working out of their home studio with such a wide range of supplies requires Tess to be impeccably organized.
As a photographer, a home studio offers many more layers and textures to work with. At the same time, an image can only handle so much visual clutter, so the challenge is that each shot requires strong framing or a shallow depth of field to bring focus to the subject. As Tess puts care into packaging gems for their clients, I frame them using the chalkboard calendar above them and the wooden table they’re working on to frame the array of packing supplies they’re working with. As they sit on the sofa embroidering, I incorporate the skull drawing on the wall behind them, a warm lamp, and a diagonal staircase as background elements to bring mood to the scene. When Tess moves to the kitchen to make candles, I use shallow depth of field to maintain the focus on Tess’ face with shelves of spices and supplies behind them. This photo session capturing Tess working in their home studio was a dynamic session that captured the essence of many aspects of their work.
You can connect with Ottawa artist Tess Giberson on their Instagram, Facebook, and Etsy. They were recently featured in this Buzzfeed article by Corin Faife.
This Life by Selena Photography blog post about environmental portraiture was written by Montreal portrait photographer Selena Phillips-Boyle. This post was edited by Montreal communications professional Max Baru.