Artist Spotlight: Tom Atwood
BY Albert Smith
October 30 2010 3:00 AM ET
How do you describe your work?
The main thesis of my portraits of individuals at home is that you can tell a lot about someone and their personality from their home and how they live in it. This is reflected in my style in a number of ways. I often seek out homes packed with wall-to-wall belongings, paraphernalia and detail. I attempt to suggest what such spaces reveal about the range of subjects’ personalities as well as how complex our personalities can be. Similarly, to illustrate that subjects and environments are a unified fabric, I choose a wide depth of field. Neither subject nor home predominates; my images are an attempt to balance the two. Conventional portraiture, on the other hand, tends to emphasize the person, through backgrounds of streamlined simplicity often with a narrow depth of field. I’m meticulous about composition — the photos often include both floor and ceiling, embracing as much of the environment as possible. I like to challenge people's eyes by including as much in the frame of the camera as possible while still creating balanced images. To fully create 360-degree portraits, I attempt to photograph people in daily activity — modern-day tableaux vivants. I seek out whimsical, intimate moments of daily life with subjects unaware of the camera. I strive for photographs that shift between the pictorial and the theatrical and that have elements of both formal portraiture and informal snapshots.
What makes a good photograph to you?
A photograph can be strong for any of a number of reasons: Raw emotion. Aesthetic beauty. Historical significance. Social value. A great photograph is often one that hits more than one of these or strikes a chord on many levels. Yet based on people’s unique life experiences, every individual will have a different reaction to every picture. So what makes one photograph great may be different for different people.
Who are your favorite artists? And why?
The photographers Gregory Crewdson and Simen Johan are my personal favorites. Gregory is known for his strange portraits of people in odd circumstances, and Simen for his somewhat grotesque portraits of children. I like them because in terms of aesthetics, both are brilliant at lighting and composition. Both also have an idiosyncratic, almost perverse understanding of the human condition.