Monday, January 30, 2012

Thom Kerr Interview

I recently came across the work of uber talented fashion photographer Thom Kerr...

 Based in Australia, Kerr is making waves in the fashion industry across the world and his original and fascinating style of photography drew me in straight away. This week I was lucky enough to interview the man himself...

'Self Portrait'

1 - Growing up in AU what and who inspired you?

I was born in a city called the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia. Do you remember the Australian film Muriel's wedding? ( (Its at this point I grew to love Kerr even more as Muriel's Wedding is one of my all time favourite fims). Muriel comes from a town called Porpoise Spit -  that's what growing up in my suburb on the Gold Coast felt like. I was pretty unpopular at school so often I would imagine all sorts of adventures in order to escape reality. 

I loved my video games and pop music, religiously listening to the top 30 on the radio all the time and imagining myself as a superstar. In grade two, my madonna obsession led me to enter the school talent quest with an impromptu dance to Vogue... it went down disastrously and I didn't live it down for a long time. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I wasn't exactly inspired by my surroundings. Most of my ideas came from the characters and family that surrounded me, plus a little intuitive magic from up above.

2 - You graduated with a fine art degree in film, do you think the fine art aspect helped your thought process in creating concepts for shoots?

I'm definitely one of those annoying photographers that likes to set a character, a style, a point in time... even if it's an abstract mixture of those elements, everything needs to exist for a reason and have a sense of purpose. Film is very visual, it lends itself more to story telling and I think that story telling makes for great photography. I wasn't exposed to photographers growing up, but I always knew I was attracted to colourful visuals - perhaps where my obsession with music videos was born. 

When I started taking pictures, I was coming from a very different place of creation.  In the beginning, it was more about raw creativity as opposed to capturing photos that referenced my favourite imagery. And I think going to film school and directing really helped to cultivate that creative process as opposed to becoming obsessed with technicals, which I find is the great kill joy of most up and coming photographers. 

3 - You also worked in production design and wardrobe before starting your photography, was this an intentional choice so you could understand the setting up of a shoot or was fashion just another interest?

It happened quite organically. At university whilst studying film I was a bit of a social butterfly and met a lot of interesting characters with varying talents. Models, photographers, designers etc. I've always been a can do kinda guy so I started producing these creative shoots building sets, styling looks, writing articles - I wasn't taking photos at this stage. One of them started a label, and through her I became interested in the process of how an image comes to life. 

I'd done dance when I was younger so I always had an interest in costume, and I think fashion was a natural extension of that. Eventually I kept feeling like the final photos from these shoots were not as good as I pictured in my head, but I was afraid to take the leap into the role of photographer. By this stage I was two thirds of the way through my degree, and I was afraid of being a jack of all trades and a master of none. After a heavy break up I had a chance encounter with a psychic who told me I was going to end up a famous photographer. That gave me enough courage to go and buy a camera and I guess you say the rest is history...

4 - How did you get involved in photography and how did you begin to get your name out there?

I think in the beginning it takes a lot of determination and a never say die attitude. I sent out lots of emails, contacted modelling agencies, scouted for locations... anything to make it work. I interned at Black magazine ( where I saw for the first time how the industry worked.

 I got a taste for it and started applying the principals I'd learnt from what I witnessed and began developing my portfolio. At first it was difficult hearing conflicting opinions about your work because as an artist you're always sensitive to how people interpret your pictures. 

It's also difficult marrying what is aesthetically pleasing with a conceptual idea. Testing models constantly helped me to learn what works and what doesn't on a basic level. I felt like once I learnt the rules of fashion and how to make things look beautiful, I then gave myself permission to break them. It was amazing how the fantasy direction polarised my audience in the beginning - but I found a much deeper connection with the people who appreciated my work. The digital world has really embraced my style and introduced my work to it's intended audience. 

It's my seventh year as a photographer now so things keep getting more exciting and I'm extremely grateful to everyone who has fuelled my creativity by showing me some love! You guys are awesome!

5 - Your work is very inspiring,a complete mix of fantasy and reality,what inspires you to create your concepts?
I think there is a certain magic that surrounds us all the time that we're unaware of. I want my pictures to take people out of their world for that split moment in time and explore another part of themselves. All the characters in my pictures are all on their own journeys, having an emotional experience, and although they are all fantastical I think they also reflect elements within ourselves that long to be explored. The hero, the lover, the warrior, the entertainer, the dreamer, the supermodel, the performer... The goal is that people can look at my images and dream bigger and brighter about their own internal world! I'm interested in fashion photography as artistic expression, not elitism. 

6 - You have exhibited your world all over the world, a great feat for someone so young, is there anywhere in particular that you loved visiting and is there somewhere you still want to visit?

Would you believe I've been to Japan, Malaysia, New Caledonia, The United States, Venezuela, Bali, New Zealand and the Caribbean but still have never made it to Europe! Often I have moments of jealousy in regards to my pictures because they've seen more of the world than I have! I always love hearing tales of my pictures popping up in various cities around the world - my model mates will usually take a snap for me. Usually I can walk into any agency now and find either someone I've worked with or one of my pictures on someone's card.

 At times it's hard to grasp... I've been gagging to get to London for quite some time now because not only do I have friends there, but some of my loveliest messages come from the English kids! You guys rule! I'm constantly getting intern requests from students in Greece, Germany, Sweden etc and a little while ago I got an email from a Jamaican model whose agency told her to shoot with me in New York. I couldn't believe that an agency in Jamaica knew of my work! Blows my mind... 

Things in the last year have really taken off and eventually I have to present my book in Paris and London. I'm just playing it patient so that when the time comes my portfolio is looking immaculate with a clear artistic opinion!

7 - What advice would you give to young artists and photographers who really want to make a mark in the industry?

 Find your own voice. Referencing in the beginning helps you get familiar with how to shoot but it often becomes a dangerous game where you begin to lose grip on your original passion. Remember, it's far better to have people love or hate your work then to be forgotten about within the turn of a page! You have to be willing to pour all of your money into your personal projects and dream big! You won't find validation from other people in the beginning, so you've got to believe in yourself!

8 - What are your plans for the new year? Where can people hear more of you and your upcoming shows and work?

I've just filmed shooting a fashion film for the super talented Australian designer Elliot Ward-Fear ( It's my first ever fashion film and marks my return into direction again, which is really exciting for me. I'm also working with my favourite young designers and shooting advertising for some great established brands down under. Keep your eyes peeled... I'll be hiding underneath your coffee table and inside your computer!

A huge thank you to Thom Kerr for the interview! To see more of Thom's work check out his Official Blog & Official Website 

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