Thom is an Australian fashion, editorial and advertising photographer based in Sydney.
Drawing from an intense imagination Thom creates eye catching, luscious fantasy style images that have lead to his popularity overseas.
In this interview you see a man who has had time to reflect upon the relationship between his own creative voice and how that relates to his clients and the world around him.
Finish these sentences:
Life is awesome when… I take creative risks that pay off.
For me personally it’s always been a dance between art and commerce with my work so it gives me a huge sense of satisfaction when an unusual idea connects with an audience. I’ve always taken photos in order to share them, it’s the performer in me, so I love exploring new territory visually and being acknowledged for it.
I would like to die… knowing that I made a real impact during my time on planet earth. I’d like my creative vision to carry on for many more years after my death and to be remembered for sharing creative positivity with the world.
I like going to the movies by myself and ordering a giant popcorn and soda. Sometimes an ice cream as well. I like it because in my world I don’t get much time by myself so treating myself is the ultimate indulgence. I actually get butterflies in my stomach when I think about how happy it makes me.
When the shit hits the fan… I tend to pump the brakes on all the voices in my head. I slow right down and consider all my options and what the repercussions will be. Then make the best possible decision in whatever the circumstances may be. This business has taught me to toughen up!
I am inspired by… my own imagination. It’s a fractured reflection of all the music, humor, characters and visuals I see in my day to day life. The philosopher in me fuels the appreciation for all of my adventures – both delightful and disastrous.
Creativity is… the courage to take something from a mere thought and give birth to it in reality.
Instinct or logic?
Absolutely both in order to sustain a career in this business. It’s all about mastering which cap to wear during each project.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Stick to your guns. Know what you want to say and speak your truth – in whatever format that may be. Doubt is an important part of the believing in yourself process. It helps faith remain a living breathing entity to keep you on your toes and heading in the right direction. Sometimes things seem hopeless but if you don’t give up you’ll be rewarded for your perseverance with a deep sense of satisfaction from achieving your goal.
If you were a celebrity who would you be and why?
When I was younger I used to dream about being famous. Working in this industry though, you begin to see another side of the business. You begin to understand the construction of fame and what it actually means. Having friends who are celebrities I now understand the pressure from a different perspective so I have no desire to be anyone but myself. And I want to be known for my work – not my personal life.
Getting really drunk. I don’t do it very often anymore so when it happens I let out my inner Diablo.
So many films I love for so many different reasons. The one that springs to mind is working girl. It’s an eighties film about a woman trying to make it in the corporate world.
What was your impression of the world when you were growing up?
Before I went to school I viewed the world as my giant playground. I used to run away all the time not because I was unhappy but because I longed to meet everything and everyone. I got a real culture shock going to school with all the rules and regiments of social behavior. I understand that it was necessary and I learned a lot, but rarely am I sentimental. My life definitely got a lot better after I escaped the education system.
Has the way you view the world changed?
I think I’m still deprogramming some negative ideas about myself that didn’t dissolve when I was able to express myself freely. I think my current world view though is one of eternal optimism about the future and all the opportunities that continually present themselves. I know I’m lucky to be able to do what I do.
Who is the photographer that has influenced your work the most?
In the beginning of my career I was influenced by Justin Edward John Smith and David Shields. Justin creates the fantasy and moulds everything until his minds eye is happy. David walks in searching for spontaneity in the natural light and the subject – capturing the beauty inside the fleeting moment. Both polar extremes of each other which appealed to my bipolar nature. As fate would have it I ended up befriending both of them and learning a lot. I think though for the last few years I’ve definitely gone on my own tangent with my work. I’ve been more interested in creating projects for myself then trying to capture someone else’s vision. And I feel blessed to be developing an audience along the way.
How long have you been a photographer?
This is officially the beginning of my ninth year. Scary! I used to be the young upstart but I’m 28 now so excellence is expected!
How do you stay motivated?
I think I don’t have much of a choice. Once something comes into my head I have to do it or else I go crazy. So my insanity keeps me motivated.
What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?
Navigating the emotional mine field of peoples feelings toward your work. I tend to polarize people with my pictures. They either love them or hate them – which I actually can’t complain about because it’s what I asked for. You have people on a regular basis project ideas about who you are or what your work needs to be – the trick is not to lose your sense of self in all the conversation. Even I have my bitter little butterfly moments, but you have to pull it together and remember ultimately it’s a business.
How do you overcome this?
I often reflect on how I felt the first time I saw David la Chapelle’s work, or Tim Walker. I think about how the image made me feel and how it helped me escape my world for a moment in time. The inspiration you feel from the beauty can be very healing. And I have to meditate and remind myself that the power of what I do rests with those who will truly appreciate it. Fashion is not just selling clothes. It is an artform that celebrates expression. Reminding myself of my true goal helps the bad moods float on by and gets me excited about the challenge.
How would you describe your work?
I think it’s thoughtful, colorful, humouros and artistic. I think I’m at my best when I create fantasies. I like to create works that help people understand themselves in a different way. Both the dark and the light. By creating these pictures I want people to resonate with the characters in my pictures and tap into emotions that they don’t often explore let alone realise are there. It’s mighty ambitious I know but a deeper meaning exists beyond just selling the shoes. And after the pictures are released – trust me those shoes have sold!
Do you think photographers should have a specific style?
It should be their number one priority. And you get there via practice practice practice. It’s very rare that someone knows exactly who they are without a period of experimentation and development. Without a specific style you will never rise above your peers.
What advice would you offer emerging photographers who want to get into the fashion/editorial industry?
If you have a question, hunt down the most likely person you can gain access to and ask them. Think about what you can do for them, not what they will do for you. And understand that photography takes time – be patient and develop your craft. Don’t get angry because you don’t recieve everything instantaneously. True credibility takes time.
What is your strength and what is your weakness in business?
I am very personally invested in the pictures I take so I think I had to learn how to put the servant cap on for my commercial clients. Now I enjoy the process of giving someone exactly what they want and not worrying too much about the context of the pictures from an artistic point of view. Sometimes all that is required is the girl looking beautiful and the fashion looking flawless – no story needed.
When are you happiest?
In the arms of a lover with no one being able to contact me and no work due. As you can imagine that pretty much never happens. I think I’m happy when I feel safe from the world.
How do you find peace?
By spending extended periods of time by myself. I really do love my own company.
Where would you like to live most in the world?
I don’t know the answer to that question right now. What I will say is that I keep getting pulled by Los Angeles – I have a feeling I will end up living there for a while because of work.
If the world was to end tomorrow what would you do?
Call each of my 7 siblings, my parents and my close friends to let them know the impact they made on me and that I love them.
Passion is… never giving up on yourself.