Tanya Ahmed knew from the age of 13 that she wanted to become a photographer. From her first photographic spread in The Reading Evening Post when she was 16 to her current job as senior photographer with the New York Police Department (NYPD), with stints in the UK, Australia and the USA in between, photography has been her way of life.
The images in this exhibition were inspired by Magnum photographer Bruce Davidson’s classic late 1960s exploration of an infamous block in East Harlem, New York. Published in 1970 as East 100th Street by Harvard University Press, the book explored the lives of the people living in what was then a neglected neighbourhood.
Despite having a common subject, Tanya’s project has little to do with Davidson’s. Davidson, with his politically motivated call to action in the immediate aftermath of America’s civil rights movement, was an outsider entering a closed community and consciously exposing it. 40 years on, Tanya, who has lived on East 100th Street for 12 years, brings an insider’s perspective, documenting a community she is part of. ‘The aim of my project was to focus firmly on the here and now and not consciously refer back to Davidson, either through individual images or in his approach.’
Tanya enjoys photographing the built environment and has roamed East Harlem extensively with her camera. But when she came to photograph the place she calls home, she wanted to go beyond the building façades and open up the street, and, by extension, her life. The building exteriors, the internal spaces and her neighbours all feature in her documentation of East 100th Street.
Tanya was brought up in the UK. Her entry into photography as a way of earning her living was a conventional one. Straight after leaving school, she went to the Berkshire College of Art and Design to study for BIPP (British Institute of Professional Photography) and BTEC (British Technology Education Council) Certificates in Professional Photography. Since then Tanya has worked as a full-time press photographer and a travel photographer. In London worked with nature and food photographer Carol Sharp in her still life studio. She was chosen by UK Elle magazine as one of just five ‘Young Photographers’ in 1988, whose work was exhibited at The Groucho Club in London’s Soho. Moving to the USA, she expanded into editorial, architectural and briefly food, first in South Beach (Miami Beach) and then settled in New York City with her family.
Tanya’s work has featured twice in the group shows New York City in Focus and New York City in Focus Vol.2, travelling exhibitions that visited a number of boroughs in New York. She was nominated in both the 5th and 6th Black and White Spider awards in the Professional Architecture category, received an honourable mention in the 2011 International Photography Awards in the Professional Architecture – Interiors category, and a silver honourable mention the previous year in the Worldwide Photography Gala Awards.