October 12th, 2012
Tom Beard’s shot everyone from Florence Welch to Hercules & Love Affair, but his own personal photography’s a much more downbeat, street-wise affair: mice in their death throes, little paws clutching at air; boys on a council estate staring suspiciously at the outsider in their midst. Wonderland talks to Twickenham boy made good.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Variable! I try and allow the subject or situation to dictate and I try to be as honest as possible with what I shoot. I love finding new reference. This show it was really about going back through my old negatives – I can always see how my style varies with each different camera I use.
Do you remember the first photo you ever took, and how do you feel about it now?
It’s not the first photo I ever took but it’s the one which is still on my wall. I shot it when I was about 11 at Mount St Helens in Canada with my folks on a Kodak Advantage camera and was getting experimental with yellow filters! I still really like it.
Was there a photograph that made you want to be a professional photographer?
My dad gave me a book called Pictures On Page when I was about 10. It was more about the theories behind photojournalism than photography itself, but the images of war in that book, especially Vietnam, really inspired me to want to shoot. It’s still my bible to this day.
You spent your younger years gigging and photographing musicians like Jamie T and The Horrors … How did this happen, and who was the best musical bunch to spend time with?
I grew up in Twickenham alongside the likes of bands such as Larrikin Love, Jamie T and Mystery Jets. At the time I was the only one shooting and they were my friends – right place at the right time I guess! Frog [the clubnight] was also instrumental in meeting bands and artists from all sides of London; that was the real melting pot for me. My closest friendships were all forged there.
You use film a lot: what made you decide to rely on the old-school darkroom?
I have always shot on film – the first and only lessons I have ever had in photography were how to print and develop my black and white photos. Personally, I prefer the way it feels to digital. I like having something solid: technology is there to break and if I shot on digital I would most certainly of have lost up to 90% of my images!
Going off the title of your show, what is the weirdest thing you’ve had a cat drag in?
I came home drunk one evening and passed straight out in bed, and as I was drifting off I could hear a loud growling and wings fluttering. I was too drunk to deal with the situation so I let it go and thought I’d deal with it in the morning. Woke up the next morning to find just the head, feet and a few bloody feathers left of a wood pigeon, as the cats had devoured everything else (although it made the clean up job a lot less traumatic).
How do you get people to relax in front of the camera?
Just keep talking! I’m pretty laid back (I think) and I hope that puts people at ease. I also don’t like huge teams on shoots. When I can I have as few people on the shoot as possible – that’s when you really get the best moments.
Do you think digital photography – smartphones, Instagram, etc – has helped or hindered artistic photography
I think digital photography has to be taken on its own merit. Although there is no point trying to pass off a digital photograph as film photo, which is what I find strange about Instagram…
Words: Zing Tsjeng