“Colour is something I find really important,” says London-based photographer Tami Aftab the day after shooting the autumn winter 2021 lookbook for TOAST. “I wanted to have a backdrop of muted olive green and earthy beige, to keep in line with the idea of rewilding that's running through the season.”
Guided by the TOAST creative team in her first commercial shoot, Tami photographed the seasonal collection, bringing her sense of playfulness, performance and intimacy into the frame. “I loved the idea of autumnal low-light sunshine against nature-inspired props,” she says, “from stools that look like tree logs to a few carefully placed wild flowers—I really wanted to bring the feeling of outside in.”
Having graduated with a BA in Photography from London College of Communication last summer, Tami has been building a portfolio that draws on topics of identity, memory and family, using performance and humour to bring a playful ease to her lens. Her series The Children of the Wildflower retraces memories of her grandmother in Ireland. Tami photographed her mother, aunt and cousin, interpreting elements of her late grandmother’s life in vibrant scenes of dancing, walking on walls and rolling down grassy hills. “I used many of these images as reference points for the TOAST shoot and how we wanted to approach the poses and props,” she explains.
An ongoing series with her father titled The Dog’s in the Car demonstrates her use of documentary-style photography with light-hearted, staged scenes, all of which highlight his short-term memory loss caused by hydrocephalus. “The topic is quite serious but we wanted to turn that narrative around and leave room for comic relief,” explains Tami. Images of her dad Tony show his energy and strength along with his penchant for charity shop caps, and his love of swimming and painting. Collaborating closely with her family, Tami also created humorous banners taken from Tony’s daily Post-It reminders such as ‘Put Your Teeth In’ and ‘Turn the Oven Off’. As Tami explains, “I want people to laugh along with us and realise that there can also be joy in these dark or solemn topics.”
Both of these projects have set the tone for how Tami approaches her work, which often pushes the boundaries of what is expected. As a lockdown graduate, Tami speaks positively of her experience finishing university and starting out in the creative industry at a time that has been challenging for all photographers. “I think there have been a lot of opportunities for recent graduates and emerging talent that might not have occurred if the pandemic hadn't happened,” she says. “I really value touch and intimacy in my work and I’ve had to find other ways to evoke those feelings and get that connection, when we can’t be close to someone or get multiple people in the shot,” she explains, “but I’ve been able to give people the space to be free and open and even performative in a shoot which has been really enjoyable.”
As part of an ongoing mentoring programme, TOAST is working with emerging artists, providing hands-on experience in an encouraging environment, where they can learn from the team, producing photography that will form part of the TOAST campaign. “We were drawn to Tami’s playful and conceptual photography, the way her subjects interact in their environment and how she brings a lightness to her portraiture,” says TOAST Head of Brand, Katie Callaghan. “It was such a great collaborative experience,” enthuses Tami, “from seeing the collection beforehand, to selecting the set designer and casting, there was an energy in the process which felt amazing.”
Since shooting part of the TOAST autumn winter campaign, Tami has shot for T, The New York Times Style Magazine, WeTransfer and FT Weekend and has several new projects upcoming. Find more of her work on her website and Instagram.
All photographs courtesy of Tami Aftab.