I was born in Detroit, Michigan, the youngest of four with two sisters and a brother. When I was only 5 my father died, and my stay at home mother became the household breadwinner. I was too young to have many memories of my father, but I was told he had a darkroom in the basement. I have a handful of his photos that he developed of my oldest sister. So when my mother gave me a Kodak Brownie camera and later an Instamatic camera, it must have been under the influence of my father that I became intrigued with making print images from a little box.
I had plans to apply to RIT to major in Photography after graduating with my Bachelor of Arts degree. I did not. I got a more practical Management degree. Photography was pushed to the side to focus on a career in business, and then later, raising my daughter. Although I always had a darkroom in the basement, I only used it to document my life and the lives of those around me (just like Dad!). The art side of Photography lay dormant until I remarried and finished raising my daughter. It has since seeped back into my life a little bit more every year. Now that I’m retired, I have the ability to pick up where I left off 40 years ago, albeit in a computer transformed world.
My formal art training is replaced by reading art theory books, taking classes in drawing and art, and visiting art galleries. I recently took a talking tour of the Memorial Art Gallery with my BFA friend, while pondering the question “What is Art”? I use the internet every day to help me with post processing techniques and learn from professional photographers. It’s an amazing time we live in.
Today, the darkroom equipment in my basement is long gone, replaced by my Canon printer, my home assembled PC, my Craftsman workbench table, my mat cutter, and my paper cutter. Although the photographic process has changed, I’m still in the basement.
I cut my own mats with a Logan 450 mat cutter which I find to be a challenge. Precision is everything and it reminds me of wrestling with carpentry projects. You just can’t be off by ¼ inch and have it look good. I recycle a lot of mat paper.
I have a decent HP monitor that can be calibrated, unlike many of the less expensive models. Calibration is important because I want the print to look like the image I see on my computer. I use a Spyder calibration tool about once a month. It attaches to my monitor via suction cups, and I run a software program that instructs me to make changes to my monitor settings. It works nicely as I can see what I print.
I print my own images using a Canon Pro-100 printer using Canon paper. I’ve started refilling my own cartridges with bulk ink, which costs a fraction of the manufacturer’s ink. The Pro-100 has been a workhorse for me.
I assemble my own frames by buying in bulk. The challenge here is keeping small bits of dust from getting on the mat under the glass. Using a combination of canned air, cotton gloves, gum erasers and micro fiber cloths, I eventually get the framed photo dust and dirt free!
On the software side, I rent Photoshop/Lightroom from Adobe for a monthly fee. I also use Google’s EFX plug-in tools that seamlessly work the Adobe products. Together, these three tools are what I use to process about 95% of all my photos.
You can see more of Tom’s photography on Flickr. Stop by to see two of his pieces in our current juried exhibition, Structurally Speaking.
Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by printmaker Ellie Honl.