Her professional job may be as an office manager, but Tanya Dakin spends her free time doing much more, such as appearing in books and magazines as both a model and photographer.
Dakin’s juggling of roles isn’t the only thing that sets her apart. The 42-year-old has been doing this since she was young.
“I started taking self-portraits when I was 13 or 14 years old. I would shoot on film, then post them to a site called Used Film. It allowed me to get feedback on my work,” Dakin said.
On Used Film, members could do “assignments” and then post their photos for review. Dakin found herself being asked by other members to work with them and built her career.
Dakin said working with other photographers allowed her to use more expensive equipment and absorb techniques she wouldn’t have learned otherwise.
Mostly self-taught, Dakin also took weekend classes at the Art Institute of Boston while living there with her mother. She lived in Boston until her mother uprooted their life to South Philadelphia when she was 20 years old. Despite hating the move, Dakin said it was beneficial to her future.
“I was very against it at first. I didn’t want to leave my friends behind. Plus, Philly was very different from Boston,” Dakin said.
Dakin’s modeling work spans from fetish to fashion, but each photo is something different. Since she’s half Asian, a quarter Greek and a quarter Italian, Dakin’s look is all her own.
In her photos, especially self-portraits, Dakin said she enjoys wearing wigs and playing different characters.
“[Wearing the wigs] was always about how many people I can get to believe in my roles,” Dakin said.
Dakin suffers from trichotillomania, the compulsive urge to pull out one’s own hair until it breaks off. Because of this, Dakin wore wigs from the time she was 18 to 30 years old. She now wears them as a choice, rather than for comfort.
In 2004, Dakin joined the popular website Suicide Girls as Maxi. The site allows its models to post nude and pin-up-style photo sets. For Dakin, this was an important part of her career.
Although she didn’t renew her contract after 2009, Dakin still blogs and updates her fans on the website.
Dakin’s photography work also encompasses many genres. Many of her coworkers will ask her to shoot family portraits, pets and children.
“I’ve got a lot of my freelance work through them. They’re constantly asking me for a new shoot,” Dakin said.
The wide variety of subjects Dakin shoots also allows her to have many different cameras.
“I primarily shoot with my Canon Rebel T1i and my Fugi X-Pro1,” Dakin said. “Sometimes I’ll use my Zenza Bronica to shoot special subjects.”
Because of her experience, Dakin has worked with many different photographers and models. She said her ability to see things from both sides of the camera has given her a visionary sense.
Dakin’s Model Mayhem page, a website used to display one’s work and information, summed this up this perfectly: “Ninety five percent of my work here is styled by me. Wardrobe, makeup and even most of the concepts. I guess I am more production than model.”
The Used Film website doesn’t exist anymore, but that’s fine with Dakin. She uses three Tumblrs to display her private project, her photography and her personal life.
Dakin said she had originally planned for 2013 to be her last year of modeling, but her photographer friends “won’t let me do it,” Dakin said.
She might not model forever, but Dakin is clear about one thing.
“I’ll have a camera till [my] death,” she said.
Bria Topper can be reached at email@example.com.