Tamara Dean (Australian, b.1976) is a photographer, installation, and performance artist whose works explore the relationship between humans and the natural world, and the role of ritual in daily life. Dean studied at the College of Fine Arts and the University of Western Sydney in Australia. Her works have been shown around the world, including at the Brussels Art Fair, the Pingyao Photography Festival in China, and the Australian Centre for Photography. They have been acquired by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra ACT; Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra ACT; Art Gallery of South Australia; Mordant Family Collection Australia; Artbank Australia; Balnaves Collection Australia; and Francis J. Greenburger Collection, New York. In 2018 Dean was commissioned to create In Our Nature that was presented at the Museum of Economic Botany (Adelaide Botanic Garden) for the Adelaide Biennale. In 2020, she was awarded Goulburn Art Prize and won the Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize (2019); Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Photography Award (2018); Meroogal Women’s Art Prize (2018); and the Olive Cotton Award (2011).
Her practice explores our connection to nature and rites of passage in contemporary life. In each of Dean’s photographs, her subjects quietly and intimately engage with their natural surroundings. The artist’s unique understanding of light and landscape reveals sensual pieces that invite contemplation. In Dean’s early bodies of work, she portrays the vulnerability one feels when in the natural environment. The relationship between the body and one another is also explored with a particular focus on the intimacy between women.
The cyclic nature of life and death encompasses Dean’s practice, as does the fragility of the environment. Dean explains the series Endangered (2018) “is a reframing of the notion of ourselves as human beings – mammals in a sensitive ecosystem, as vulnerable to the same forces of climate change as every other living creature. The difference being that the power and responsibility lies with us”.
Dean lives and works in Sydney, Australia, where, in addition to being an artist, she works as a photographer for the Sydney Morning Herald.