Taylah Roberts: 'I Want to Strip People Back'


Taylah Roberts is a self-taught analog photographer. She 'fell into it after buying her first film camera in 2017, when coming to the end of her career as a model'. She describes finding a deeper love being behind the camera rather than in front of it and feeling the fulfilment she was unknowingly searching for. 

Of this photo series, Taylah says:

"The two girls have this sort of mother-daughter relationship and I think Maxine (above left) feels a kind of responsibility towards Rue's wellbeing. They are both proud trans women and have built the most incredible relationship rooted in love, guidance and nurturing, ever since fate inevitably brought them together."


Hey Taylah, it's such a pleasure to be featuring you in Aurelia. Your work is amazing. Can you talk us through how you got started in a little more detail?

Thank you. The camera roll on my phone has upwards of 25,000 photos so it’s no secret that I love taking them but I was intrigued by film after dating someone who was constantly carrying a camera. I researched which film cameras were simple to use and were also mainly automatic and bought my first point and shoot from a friend who re-sells tested film cameras. I of course made a few mistakes when I got it, the funniest though was when I just assumed the guy had loaded the camera with film until I discovered that after taking about 70 “photos” it was indeed empty. 


What do you hope to achieve with your work? Do you have any 'themes' that you return to?

I want to strip people back, capture moments that maybe they don’t want anyone to see. I want them to let their guard down and let me in, smile and laugh when something is funny and really get a sense of their essence. I always return to using a white sheet backdrop, there’s something so simple and beautiful about a person standing in their individual power and vulnerability, being who they are without anything around them to distract you. 



 You mentioned in your bio that you're an ex-model. What was that like?

The way I would describe it would be to say that it was the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Being so heavily criticised on your appearance day after day does mad things to your psyche but at the same time, I met some of the most incredible people and wouldn’t ever change my journey in exchange for them.


I also left modelling behind to pursue something creative. I personally found it quite hard to re-adjust. Are you happier now? What made you leave?

There is no adequate measure for how much happier I am now, but like you probably experienced, it took a lot of readjustment. Modelling isn’t something you just “do”, it becomes your identity and when you stop it feels like it’s been ripped away. It’s like starting all over again. You get to make your own decisions and be anything that you want to be. I found I was constantly asking myself “what do I actually like?” 

I left because my agency told me that my contract didn’t allow for me to sign with another agency in London as the one I was with didn’t want me/want me to work there. So it was either leave or never work as a model in London, which was always a goal of mine. Needless to say, I left. And here I am, working in London - but instead doing something I’m genuinely so passionate about.


You mentioned in your bio that you're an ex-model. What was that like?

The way I would describe it would be to say that it was the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Being so heavily criticised on your appearance day after day does mad things to your psyche but at the same time, I met some of the most incredible people and wouldn’t ever change my journey in exchange for them.


I also left modelling behind to pursue something creative. I personally found it quite hard to re-adjust. Are you happier now? What made you leave?

There is no adequate measure for how much happier I am now, but like you probably experienced, it took a lot of readjustment. Modelling isn’t something you just “do”, it becomes your identity and when you stop it feels like it’s been ripped away. It’s like starting all over again. You get to make your own decisions and be anything that you want to be. I found I was constantly asking myself “what do I actually like?” 

I left because my agency told me that my contract didn’t allow for me to sign with another agency in London as the one I was with didn’t want me/want me to work there. So it was either leave or never work as a model in London, which was always a goal of mine. Needless to say, I left. And here I am, working in London - but instead doing something I’m genuinely so passionate about. 


Are there any particular instances as a model that stick out to you - where you thought - this can't last, I can't carry on with this? 

I had so many moments like this. I “quit” a few times but was always reeled back in with empty promises of “making it” and I was naive enough to believe it. One moment that sticks out is when I first moved to Sydney from Perth and I was living in Bondi, the agency told me I had lots of work to do to “get my body where it needed to be” - I went soft sand running every morning, ate very little calories and went to hot yoga every other day only to be told I was putting on weight. They told me that I wasn’t doing what I was told because if I was this would be impossible. I was shattered but the stress of losing weight just caused me to continue gaining more, I finally got to break point and texted my agent telling him I needed to leave and that I wasn’t ready. This was only in the first year of my five year career.


Would you ever go back to it? Some people think the industry is really changing, especially with regards to body image and diversity, etc..

It’s something that I have thought about on a few occasions but I would never go back to it full time. It’s definitely changing very slowly, but lasting change is always slow so I'm hopeful. If I was given the opportunity to work with a brand that I loved that was championing diversity (authentically), I would say yes, but for the moment I prefer to be holding the camera. 


Amazing. Your photo series that we're showcasing here features two beautiful trans women. As you know, here at Aurelia, freedom to express gender identity is of the utmost importance. It's obviously important to you too - would you say that diversity and inclusivity is a big part of your work? If so, how?

It’s very important to me, but before Maxine I knew very little about trans people and the community. I am constantly in awe of how she educates people with such kindness even when faced with adversity. Herself and Rue share such a special bond, I feel lucky to have captured a small part of it and be able to share it here with you. Diversity and inclusivity are definitely becoming more and more present in my work as I grow, and I feel privileged to be to join the conversation and help lift up trans stories through photography.
 

What does a typical day for you look like?

I work as a Marketing Manager four days a week so on the other 3 days I am trying to shoot as much as possible, even if it’s just walking around with my camera taking photos of things that might seem mundane to everyone else. I see so much beauty in those moments.


What are your hopes for the future?

That we continue to see the standards of beauty broken down and that the movement that’s happening right now isn’t just to trend. My hopes for the future are to just facilitate this as much as possible, through photography and activism.




If you could give any advice to for a photographer just starting out, what would it be?

Something I learned early on is don’t compare yourself to other people. You can get yourself in a real creative rut by looking at other peoples work all day every day. Remember that no one else will ever be able to take the same photo as you and you will make mistakes but some of my best photographs were happy accidents (except not loading the film, I had to laugh at that so I didn’t cry, so ALWAYS check that first. Haha)


What is your ideal shoot day?

Seeing everyone in flow, working with people I feel inspired by and having a genuine laugh. I don’t take myself too seriously which sometimes can be a curse at times but when I’m shooting I want the subject(s) to be comfortable so I am always easy going. Also good music and snacks are essential.


Where can we see more of your work?

You’ll find all my work on; http://www.taylahroberts.com and my photography account @babyybiscuits