HE'S SHOT FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES AND THE PARALYMPICS, NOW FIND OUT MORE ABOUT TOM BARNES INCREDIBLY EYE FOR HUMANITY

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Hi Tom, tell us about yourself and your practise as a photographer. 

Well hello, I’m 6ft 6 with green eyes and a terrible sense of humour. I’m a self taught photographer based in London but obviously shooting all over the world. My father gave me my first camera at about 5 and tasked me with photographing family events - after the films were processed I started shooting more and more, my patient dad kept paying for my films to get developed. The bug of wanting to photograph never left me. 

When I was 18 I moved to Sheffield and became heavily involved in the music scene and ended up touring the world as a music photographer for a few year having some wild times. After the wildest of times ended up with me getting evicted from a house in Sheffield I decided to move back to the south and settle down and concentrate on work.


"Beaky, Motorcycle mechanic” - Photograph, 2015

 

You shoot a mixture of portraits, music and personal images - what drew you in to focusing on these subject areas? 

The music area seemed like a logical step as I loved music but had no discernible talent with instruments so the camera was the next best thing. I think I had a wild time in my early twenties touring with bands and working for the music press/labels etc and I still shoot a little from time to time but from my mid twenties onwards I started to focus on other areas and now I am in my early thirties the focus is exclusively on advertising and personal work.

The personal work I shoot is to keep me entertained and shooting for fun, it’s what I’ve always done and it is simply me photographing people because I love to photograph them - it just so happens that people seem to like the personal work I shoot which is great! 

Only being interested in photographing people is fantastic as it means that I have an unending list of people I want to shoot!


"Ali Jawad, Paralympic Powerlifter” - Photograph, 2016

 

I notice quite a lot of strong men in your shots, back up with really bold strong colours, but yet the way you capture them seems so honest and intimate, how do you balance such striking strong forms with a level of beauty and gentility?

I have no idea how really; I just photograph people - I treat everyone as if they are my best mate who I have known for years so I get on well with everyone. I do love photographing strong people though, whether it is male or female - I tend to be able to get a lot of strength out of people and I wonder whether the relationship I have with people on the day is the root of the beauty and gentility? Might be!


"Lauren Steadman, Para-Triathlete” - Photograph, 2016

 

Your Port Issac series, also shows another more humorous side to your photography, does the way you shoot change dramatically depending on the feeling your trying to convey?

I think rather than the way i shoot changing it is the way I converse with people on the day, if I want more fun pictures we’ll be laughing and joking all day but if I am after strength then it will a more serious (still fun) atmosphere. The Port Isaac series was great fun to shoot - just all the characters were so full of beans it was fantastic and great fun to be around them so as a result the photos came out a little more fun and humorous. 


"Billy, Port Isaac based potter” - Photograph, 2015

 

Talk about a score of commissions; paralympics, the sunday times! Do you find it more restrictive creatively when being commissioned by someone to get ‘that shot’ they want? 

This is a great question, it depends entirely on the job and the commissioner - there are other variables sure but this seems to be the main two for me - if people are after something specific then they just need to tell me and I’ll make sure I get that first before getting some other frames but many of my commissioners have a certain level of trust so I often get commissioned to go and photograph someone with no specific or requested outcome - those jobs are great as I have free run. That said, at no point have any of my wonderful commissioners ever been really strict or pressured me in to getting something etc, I have a great relationship with everyone I work with, from the subjects right up to the people commissioning me!


"Adrian, local Fireman” - Photograph, 2015 

 

You’ve also just come back from a trip to India, what were you doing over there? A new exciting project perhaps?

Yes, India. I didn’t actually have a very good trip - it was very intense and I was working in some very nasty spots, I went out to photograph acid attack survivors - I got 13 photographed in the end and now I am looking to expand the series to maybe cambodia or even the UK where this worryingly seems to be becoming a bit more common.

I actually had the trip to India straight after spending two weeks in a refugee camp in a war torn part of central Africa so I feel that I have been out of the UK for a while so it’s good to be back for a couple of weeks before 2017 kicks off.


"Jeremy, Port Isaac based fisherman” - Photograph, 2015

 

What have you got lined up for in 2017, which is just around the corner now! 

I have a few plans for 2017, a lot of my time in 2016 was spent organising these trips and now they are over I can get on and start planning properly - I think the aim is to do about 20 personal shoots with probably 2/3 being somewhere abroad and not very nice! I’m also closing my studio south of London down and maybe taking something on in Central - we’ll see how that all goes!


“Jon, Port Isaac based Author and shanty singer” - Photograph, 2015

 

TO SEE MORE OF TOMS’ PHOTOGRAPHY VISIT www.tombarnes.co

INTERVIEW by HANNAH SMITH

 

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