Tara Lemana

Tara Lemana - Photographer

Interview with Tony Cutting

Tara was born in the Netherlands.  Her mum is Maya, a caregiver and yoga teacher, and her dad Lucien is a software developer. She has two younger sisters, Merisha and Amber, and a younger brother, Anouk.

She attended a Steiner school in Zeist, her home town in the Netherlands, and says she enjoyed her time there, though she was a shy and quiet child. She had firm friends she’s still in touch with 30 something years later.

She remembers the school rituals and celebrations most – baking bread on a stick held over a camp fire at school camps and Midwinter festival, making candles and the smell of the candle wax, ice skating on local streams and lakes.

Outside of school she took music lessons and swimming lessons.

She attended a Montessori high school in the Netherlands for three years before moving to New Zealand.
"I loved it there, had a lot of friends and did well in school, particularly in languages, arts and music (I never did enjoy sciences or maths)."

A move to New Zealand

Then came a move to New Zealand, where she finished college at Pukekohe High School. It was a massive change for a 16 year old, a huge culture shift to change countries and schools at that age, and Tara struggled to adjust, but she did eventually.

"The 'Kiwi' accent took a while to wrap my brain around! I eventually finished college with 6th form certificate and Bursary completed"

Coming to New Zealand did you play any sports?  What else can remember about College?

"I’ve always had two left feet and ten thumbs when it comes to sports but I did play for the Senior A volleyball at school. To be honest, I still have no clue how I made that team when the rest of the players were natural athletes with an incredible talent for sports, while I was everything but and was, quite honestly and without a scrap of humility, the weakest link in the team. Somehow, I played for that team two years in a row - we even made the regional champs one year (and did pretty well once I got injured and had to sit out the remainder of the games, haha!)."

"Moving countries and schools and surviving that was a pretty big achievement. I spoke English pretty well, but the 'Kiwi' accent took a while to understand. That aside, there was the time I swatted three years’ worth of maths in 3 weeks!"

"I always thought I sucked at maths. When I arrived halfway through 5th form year, after opting out of much of my schooling for the 6 months prior to us leaving the Netherlands because “I’m leaving anyway”, I was completely lost in the curriculum."

"But when I found out I would have to sit an exam at the end of the year and if I didn’t pass it, I’d have to repeat the year, that was too much for my teenaged ego. So I asked my teacher for the maths books for 3rd and 4th form and spent my entire August holidays (3 weeks  back then) working my way through all three years of maths – maths all day, every day, a big deal to someone who hated maths and was the queen of procrastination and last minute swatting. I passed my end of year exam with 70% though!"

Did you go and do any tertiary education?

“I completed two years of a BA, majoring in Spanish and Psychology. It wasn’t really for me so I didn’t go back after year two."

"Since then I’ve done a lot of occupational training and certification, in a range of different jobs I’ve held over the years. Training has included certificates in adult education, Microsoft networks, project management and export administration, and of course, a diploma in professional photography as well as extensive courses in various areas of photography."

Working life for you, tell us more about your work history?

"It took me until my thirties to find Photography, so my career path up until then has been that of someone looking for their place - varied. I’ve been, among other things, a teacher (adult and community education), an IT project manager, an office manager at a recruitment firm, and a self-defence trainer."

"Each job taught me different lessons, some taught me lessons they likely didn’t mean to teach me. I’ve had some amazing bosses and some horrendous ones I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy (you know it’s time to get out when you watch your boss backhand your colleague across the face for some minor infraction!) but all in all, I love being my own boss these days."

"Having found photography I finally feel like I’ve found where I belong though, and I’ve been doing this now for nearly ten years."

What do you do outside of work?

"I sing (I was a singer/songwriter in another life, somewhere in that varied career), read when I have time and I knit. I love to write as well, and have dabbled with freelance writing but I don’t find time for that these days with my photography work keeping me busy.”

"I am terrible at sports even though I always wanted to be good at them and enjoy them. I love salsa dancing but a back injury put an end to that a few years back, unfortunately."

Tara Lemana Portraiture

"I am a photographer and a digital artist. I work part time, by choice, because I have a young family and I still want to be a hands on parent as well. I specialise in portraiture, both individual and families, and fantastical, whimsical digital art."

"My two great loves as far as my work goes are women’s couture portraiture and family documentary photography. The two are diametrically opposed but I find them wonderfully complementary."

"My couture portraiture service is an experience, a real treat. I provide women with a day just for them; they get pampered by a professional make-up artist, then I style their hair and we choose several costumes from an extensive session wardrobe that I bring along for the purpose. They then have a 3 hour, fully guided portrait session with me."

"My aim is two-fold: I want to treat hard working women to a day just for them, as well as show them that they are beautiful and amazing regardless of their size, age, or anything else. And I want to give them portraits that capture them at their best, when they are relaxed and feeling great about themselves, for them and their families to treasure forever."

"My family documentary sessions are about capturing a family’s story. I come and join the family for a few hours and document everything that happens: making pancakes with the kids, arts and crafts, a visit to the local pools, bedtime stories. Whatever that family loves to do together, it’s part of the family’s story and I love to capture it as it unfolds. Nothing is scripted, there is no posing or direction from me, it’s just them, the way they really are."

“My digital art is mostly personal work, though I do take commissions from time to time. I create fantasy scenes that are rich in colour, usually uplifting, a form of escapism. I’m working on a project with a poet friend who has written a poetry anthology, creating the images to go with each of her poems. It’s something I absolutely love to do, but don’t get enough time to do very often these days.”

What is it like working for yourself?

"I love being self-employed for the freedom and creative license it gives me. I love that I’m free to capture images the way I see them in my head, without having to match an employer’s vision."

What do you regard as your biggest achievements to date?

"Building my own business from scratch with no start-up capital at a time when I have three young children and a lot of balls to juggle is something I’m pretty proud of.  There have been a lot of sacrifices but it’s amazing to see the growth and know how hard I fought to get where I am now. My family are incredibly supportive, I couldn’t do what I do without them."

Thinking forward what does the future have in store for you?

"I love what I do, and I want to do it for the rest of my life. I will be submitting work to the NZIPP Iris awards this year, for the first time, and I hope to emerge from that an award-winning photographer. I want to be a photographer people travel to for couture portraits, as well as be hired to travel all over the country to photograph family stories in-home."

Please take the time to visit Tara's beautiful website and look at her wonderful portfolio of work


Tara Lemana, I think you will agree, is a talented artist with an inspirational story.  Thank you very much for letting me interview you.  Tara has been selected to work with our project Toi Kapiti which looks to promote talented Kapiti visiual artists both locally and nationally.

Tara Lemana