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Call for photo-books: Tom Oldham's Photo-book Amnesty Leverages Creative Community, Flooding Schools with Precious Resources.

9 September 2019

QE school Wimborne 2 1 copy

© The Author

Realising how tragically underfunded creative departments had become in UK secondary schools, London-based music and portrait photographer, Tom Oldham recently embarked on a journey, making a call to arms via social media. The results of which have been nothing short of inspirational.

Tom Oldham with his haul 1 copy

© The Author. Tom Oldham with his haul.


Not since the early 1990s has there been such an uncertain landscape for the UK’s youth. A decade of austerity measures has left the majority of state schools’ creative departments experiencing a crippling lack of critical resources with which to help shape and inspire young photographers as they consider their future paths.

Recognising the issue and with a resolution to make a difference, London-based portrait Photographer, Tom Oldham, made a call to action with his immediate social circle, both off and online. The result has led to a groundbreaking project that’s resulted in a donation of over 400x photo-books, 10x Sony cameras and 2x Profoto mobile lighting rigs for 2 UK secondary schools; demonstrating the power and generosity of the creative community whilst potentially making a significant difference for several years of photo students to come.


Tom Oldham explains: “I have been working with a couple of state secondary schools for quite a while now and they asked me if I’d come in and give some talks to share some real-life experiences of what the job of a working photographer looks like. It was during one of these visits when I realised that they were suffering from being quite seriously underfunded. There are many examples of this, but one in particular was when I was shocked to witness that multiple departments were sharing a single ball of Blu Tack! It struck me as criminal that we’re not investing in art education when there are so many beneficiaries of this self-same education, like the many in the world of commercial photography. I was angry, and anger has been a great motivator for me in the past, so it invited me to think, how about maybe I should get off my arse and try to contribute in some way.

Tom continued: “It occurred to me that the schools don’t have technical, reference or art books, so I spent some time clearing out my bookshelves, pulling out some photography books that I don’t really look at anymore. I thought I can’t be the only photographer who has a whole load of photo-books that are really just ‘jewellery’ on their shelves. People let them sit and gather dust when really, they are a valuable resource to someone who can’t access quality photography bookshops, galleries or shows. Once I’d put it out there via social media, people started bringing their photo-books to me in London from all over the country on the train. Lovely people carrying big heavy bags right across London at Waterloo, London Bridge, Victoria, Kings Cross. It really has been a beautifully sharing experience. Proper socialistic behaviour. I couldn’t have been prouder and the result has been incredible.

In an open letter, Chris Francis from St Peter’s School, Bournemouth, who had been one of the lucky benefactors of the collective haul of resources, stated: “It is tempting to draw attention to how poorly funded arts education is. In a school over 1500 students, we have a budget of less than £2500 per year. I last purchased a photo-book for the department three years ago, so THANK YOU. I’m writing this surrounded by your acts of kindness. 4 large tables of photo-books that will benefit students today and in the future. The creative capacity of young people is often overlooked and under-appreciated. When industry professionals and supportive others stand up and show interest, it resonates deeply.

Can you donate to this cause? To get involved email Tom

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