Photographer Spotlight Thomas Holdsworth
Meet Thomas Holdsworth
I grew up on the coast in Connecticut, and had every expectation that I’d return after college to work in NYC – it’s what many suburbanite kids in the “tri-state” area aspire to. That all changed after I attended Virginia Tech’s college of architecture in the Blue Ridge mountains. I had an incredibly fulfilling experience there, and as a bonus, met my wife Renée just prior to graduation. In 2000, I started as an intern architect with a firm in downtown Baltimore. Thanks to “The Wire”, Baltimore has a reputation as a gritty place to live – but there’s a positive side to it that often gets overlooked. I’ve met so many hard-working, talented and gracious folks, especially in the local A/E/C community. I’ve come across mentors and opportunities that might have proved difficult to find in other cities. So I’m still here – we bought a small disaster of an old house in a quiet neighborhood and are renovating it at a glacial pace.
Tom, diving right into what I call the million dollar question, why photography? What launched your passion?
I knew during my first year of architecture school that I was somewhat ambivalent about actually BEING an architect. I’m fortunate to have been in a program that allowed a tremendous amount of latitude and discovery, otherwise my story might be very different. I bought a Nikon 6006 and started spending a lot of time in the darkroom – often to the detriment of other assignments. But I believe my passion for photography grew markedly during a semester abroad in Switzerland – our class spent a lot of time on the road witnessing significant architecture firsthand. And while most had their sketchbooks out, I preferred Agfapan APX 25 and the peace of the darkroom afterward. So that may have been the inflection point, but it took over 12 years for me to pursue architectural photography full-time.
By scrolling through your images on your website, I quickly gathered that you are an amazingly talented architecture photographer! What’s the inspiration behind your work?
I’m not sure how to answer this succinctly. There’s an ongoing stockpile of past experiences, technical knowledge, admiration of other artists, appreciation of cinematography, nature, light, music, weather etc., accumulating in my “brain-attic” (as Sherlock Holmes termed it) that I draw from for inspiration – often subconsciously. But as a commercial architectural photographer, my personal inclinations are always balanced with the need to tell a specific story for my client. In many cases, that story is more about the human in the context of the building, rather than the building as solely an object of composition. The ideal is of course to do both simultaneously – and resolving that creative tension is often the inspiration for any project.
What do you enjoy photographing outside of your work related projects?
I enjoy shooting landscape images in my off hours, but I’m admittedly very sporadic and unorganized about it. It’s one of my ongoing resolutions for the coming years – to spend more time and energy on personal work. After attending the CI workshop with Julian Calverley a couple years ago, I saw firsthand how the passion and commitment to his landscapes informs and contributes to his success as a commercial photographer.
Out of the wide variety of lenses on the market, what’s your favorite one to use?
While the Rodenstock 32 HR is on my Alpa 80% of the time, I’d say the 50mm is my favorite to use – it’s long enough to render objects a more pleasing proportion but not so much that I can’t use it indoors. I suspect the 40mm (which I don’t own) might be the best of both worlds.
Lighting plays a major role in telling the story of your image. What are your favorite lighting techniques to tell your story?
I’m definitely a novice at lighting. Four years ago I attended a workshop with Nick Merrick and I’m still in awe at his craftsmanship – and mastery of chiaroscuro. Before attending, I wasn’t very attuned to the position of light relative to the camera. That alone has made such a huge difference in the quality of my photographs. I do a lot of research on sun position, blue hour, etc. before a shoot. I love shadow and the dimensionality it brings – I used to fear it and overcompensated to embarrassing levels. I often shoot available light, but am gradually introducing strobe from time to time. Aside from a few workshops, I’m largely self-taught, so gaining fluency with lighting techniques is through trial and error.
In which ways do you see your work evolving in the next 5 – 10 years from now?
I wake up every day feeling extraordinarily grateful to have made the transition from architect to photographer. It’s a little flippant, but I’d like to spend the next 5-10 years evolving into a “good” photographer. I don’t know what the objective metric is for that, but I’m not there yet.
If you could have given yourself any advice when you first launched your career in photography, what would it be?
1. The word “no”, when used judiciously, can often be beneficial in the long run. 2. Just because you enjoy what you do doesn’t diminish the value of it. 3. Get paid before image delivery. 4. Beware of developers.
Why Capture Integration? What made you select us as a partner?
I called Steve Hendrix back in 2011 when I decided to move from a DSLR to a technical camera setup. Over the years Steve and the CI crew have been an amazing resource. It’s taken me a bit of time to figure out the way I preferred working and the equipment that best suited my approach. Earlier this year CI was able to work some miracles on getting my lenses converted to an Alpa mount in a pretty short time frame (as well as providing an interim rental for a big project) and then sourcing an IQ3 100 in less than a couple weeks. I always appreciate when a client selects me over a cheaper provider because they like working with me and feel I understand their work and process – why should I not do the same when it comes to buying my gear? I know that wherever I’m working I have a crew of folks in Atlanta that will be able to help sort out a problem should one arise.
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