PHOTOGRAPHER FOCUS: Tom Martin
29 October 2018
AOP Member Tom Martin talks to us about his career, inspirations, shooting for Canon and what its like to be a fairly recent member of the AOP.
Tell us about how you got into photography?
It was a complete accident, I never grew up wanting to be a photographer. I got an opportunity to try developing B&W film in the dark room on a foundation Art course when I was 17. One roll of 36 later and I just knew that it was what I wanted to do. Since then I’ve done a whole load of jobs to keep the dream of being a professional photographer alive, I’ve been a barman, a drayman, a van driver, a printer, a stage manager at a Jazz festival, a Picture Editor, a BA Degree Lecturer and a window cleaner’s assistant… But for the last 10 years I’ve managed to be a full time professional photographer, so I got there in the end. I started off shooting live music mostly, working for magazines like NME and Kerrang but in the last 3 years my career has taken a complete turn and I’m now fully focused on commercial and advertising photography and I love it.
How would you define your style and what are your influences?
I like to shoot energetic, colourful portraits of people that I find interesting. I shoot in a very fast, free way. I’m not interested in setting up the perfectly curated shot; I’m more bothered about getting real energy and genuine character out of the people I shoot. I think my most successful images all have an element of weird or intrigue about them, something slightly alternative or quirky going on that’s maybe not quite explained. I’m also obsessively attracted to anything with big bright colours.
In terms of photographers at the moment I really love Charlotte Rutherford, her use of colours and just the absolute sleaze of it all, I’m a big fan of Nadia Lee Cohen and her weirdness, I find it especially interesting to see people like that get commercial work and how it translates into advertising. I’m also a big fan of American Abstract Expressionist painters, Rothko, Newman, Jackson Pollock; I think I always try to frame my subjects in block colours like a painting. Then, as silly as is sounds, I just watch loads of cartoons, Simpsons, Futurama, South Park etc., I love the escapism of being submersed in a whole colourful universe of characters, I guess on some level that’s just what I’m trying to do with my portraits.
You have a close relationship with Canon, we’d love to hear about your commissions from them and the kit you have been using.
Canon has been a fantastic journey for me. I’ve just come back from a shoot in Croatia that was actually my tenth commission in just over 2 years for them. I have a great relationship with them, there are a few people at Canon who have really invested in me and nurtured my career. As a photographer who has always shot on Canon gear it all seems like a bit of a dream sometimes. Because they are a company that deals in the medium of photography, in some respects they are a very demanding client, there is huge attention to detail on every level but I like that and I like to think that I’ve absolutely given 100% of myself trying to get it right on their shoots. Working on the EOS R release was just a really cool job to be part of; it was so exciting to get to play with the new system pre-embargo.
You were a finalist in our last Awards with an image in the Fashion & Beauty category, What did you get out of this? And will you be entering again into the 2019 Awards?
Yes! I was over the moon. I’ve never been shortlisted for anything else, although come to think of it I’ve not really entered that much before now. My image of the girl holding the cat was one of the images used to promote the AOP Awards that year so suddenly it started popping up everywhere, which was really exciting, I was so proud. I am planning to enter this year although I haven’t worked out what yet, so I need to get thinking!
What does it mean to you being a member of the AOP?
I used to look at the AOP website and all their photographers in awe when I was at college and be very inspired but also think, man I’ll never get to that level! When I started working with my agent (the wonderful Peter Bailey, I see you spoke to him for your last agent focus) he suggested that I became a member and I absolutely jumped at opportunity.
What are the reasons you would give to a fellow photographer to join the AOP?
I think there is a great sense of community from being involved with the AOP, it’s one of the very few email newsletters that I actually look forward to having a look at. It also offers a feeling of security, fingers crossed that you will never need assistance with legal advice or professional cover but it’s good to know that support is there if you ever need it. Lastly, just lots of inspiration, I never get tired of looking at everyone’s work and how their portfolios develop.
Whats next for you?
I’ve just started a brand new project involving mermaids that’s a bit different for me and I’m hopefully going to be releasing some motion that I’ve directed about a super hero called Dolores. And of course I’m looking forward to the Awards again at the start of next year!