Roma Tearne

In 2002 we published a set of photographs by the artist Roma Tearne called The House of Small Things showing an unusual doll's house. At the time, we didn't know Tearne was also a novelist and five years later would be shortlisted for the Costa first book award. When we became aware of her writing we didn't complain, 'Oh no, another photographer lost to writing fiction' which is something that never happens (examples please…) but in retrospect it is easy to see how these photographs, that are both autobiographical and staged in a way that suggests a narrative, could be the work of a novelist.

As it turns out, Tearne says she used to think of her work as an artist and as a writer as 'having different job descriptions' but as she explains in this film photographs, both her own and those she has collected, are a basic ingredient of the way she creates a book. As with other writers in this season, she shows that photographs and fiction are closely related ways of representing the world. Her books contain many invisibly embedded photographs. Admittedly this came about in an extreme way with the loss of her own family photographs but it does make you wonder how many novels have been imagined from the experience of looking at photographs.


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