For Photographer Tom Brownold, finding out that photography was his true passion meant taking a risk he doesn’t regret. Being located in Arizona, his studio location is convenient for projects in and around Grand Canyon’s South Rim, the Four corners region within the American Southwest, Arizona, Nevada and California. All these location’s he’s surrounded by act as muses when you look through his extensive body of work. Not only do they make multiple appearances throughout his portfolio, you soon realize that the locations themselves began to meld with the people that live and interact within those spaces. Just look at one of his most recent shoots, The Grandest Ride to see what I mean. Let’s find out a bit more about Tom and how he got where he is.
Tell us your story.
In 1995, I realized that if I was going to get on with my Photography career commercially, I would have to retire my commercial paint contracting business of 20 years to concentrate on the nuances of building onto the small foundation I had created with my stock photography. A library of images started during my college days during the 1970s and added to regularly as the years past. In so doing, I jumped off the cliff into the conundrum that is the fine line between art and commerce. I embraced the challenge by joining ASMP and recently APA to learn from contemporary photographers just how to go about making the business end work while capturing the images that I love to make. From the beginning, the challenges have been to maintain my vision, maintain and build working relationships with clients and to keep up with the advances of photographic technology. My specialty could be considered editorial and fine art landscape. I like to think that I employ a visual sense acquired in my formative years taught to me while in school and in further education photography workshops by such luminaries as Frederick Sommer, Jay Dusard, Jay Maisel, Ralph Gibson, Minor White, Emmit Gowin,and others.
How do you promote yourself and find new work?
I utilize mailing lists, the telephone, direct contact, email blasts and social media. I have been challenged by this from day one. They say and I believe it to be true that you never know where the next job will come from. So I try to cast as wide a net as possible. To understand where my commissions come from I do ask how they got a hold of me. Over the years the answers have changed. Direct face to face meetings and word of mouth are high on the list.
Any recent memorable shoots?
Not to long ago I did an editorial assignment for Private Clubs Magazine that required following the journalist around for the day on a guide assisted series of climbs on the sandstone cliffs, in a remote area on the Utah/Arizona state line. The purpose of the article was to bring attention to the unique nature of exposed rock climbing using a network of cables and ladders known as Via Ferrata. This being one of the many activities provided for on the resort’s property. The project was right up one of my alleys! It was physically challenging, a visual smorgasbord, in familiar surroundings which made for wonderful photographs.
What inspires you?
I have a small library of photography books (featuring among others Darius Kinsey, Brassai, Ed Weston, Fred Sommer, Jay Dusard, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Jay Maisel and Pete Turner ) that I get absorbed in. Otherwise I occasionally read Rob Haggart’s blog “A Photo Editor”, and browse through PDN magazine, visit PDN’s photo serve ( where I also have a small presence) or search out websites of different photographers. Most recently Ralph Gibson, Vivian Maier, William Allard and others. I also love the Impressionist painters and peruse my one book on them when I want to get a better sense of how they used speckled light and color variations.
What’s in your camera kit?
These days I am working with Canon’s 5D Mark 2 and the older 5D. With the70:200mm f2.8L, the 16:35mm f2.8L and a 580EX flash. These items are always in my bag.
Any signature shooting styles?
I prefer available light when I am working an assignment or photographing for myself. I may use a strobe on assignments and a soft box in the studio or on set. I like to see gestures with vivid colors that contribute to the composition.