A unique photographic style is one of the benchmarks of a great photographer. In 2007, Tom Hoops was working as a web designer in Thailand, unfamiliar with names like Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, or Paolo Roversi. But, after borrowing a friend’s camera one afternoon, a new creative passion emerged and, for the past six years, Tom has been refining a style and building a body of work that is both instantly recognizable and uniquely his own. His dramatic black & white portraiture and brilliant editorial work have earned him an ardent following and are increasingly in demand, particularly in the world of fashion. I got the chance to sit down with Tom to talk about how his work has evolved, the importance of shooting what you love and why he wants his photography to be like a black polo neck.
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ABOUT THE PODCAST
Process Driven is a podcast about creativity and what it means to those who do more than make art. I engage in frank, in-depth conversations with makers and creators from a wide range of disciplines including photography, art, film, and literature to talk not only about the what and the how, but also the why.
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please listen carefully my name is Jeffrey's odorous and this is process-driven in 2007 Tom hoops was working as a web designer in Thailand but after borrowing a friend's camera one afternoon a new creative passion emerged and since then tom has been refining a style and building a body of work that is both instantly recognizable and uniquely his own I got the chance to sit down with Tom to talk about how his work has evolved as well as the importance of shooting what you love and why he wants his photography to be like a black polo neck here we go I'd like to start at that kind of the beginning of your photographic career if you don't mind let's go back six years or so Brian what what were you doing before and what inspired you to pick up a camera I started as a sub started my career as a doing design for a long time and then I then kind of got a different job and work for a client and I ended up doing all sorts of boring stuff they didn't really enjoy it very much what type of design with a print or web Webster and so I designed my website and things like that so still do bits and bobs was quite simple I did bits and bobs for myself though I yeah I picked up a camera because I didn't know what to do I had nothing to do and originally I thought well I'll pick up a camera and take pictures of people in the street and then maybe paint them so that's how I got into it mm-hmm and the idea was I just so find interesting people take a snapshot and then I can paint them so I borrowed a friend's camera which is a Fuji don't remember of Fuji SLR not sure which one it was when on the streets took a few photos and then bought them home put them into Photoshop and it went from there really and I've never done that painting with with the intent to paint them were you were you trained in in painting no you did you go I could draw I was used to drawing I was younger and I used to draw draw faces and with pencil and stuff so I thought oh I'll give it a go so I always like to try painting and yeah I never got around to it because photography sort of flew from there anything you took to it straight away then yeah yeah I fell in love with it it was great I don't know what it was but yeah it was it was a bit of a whirlwind bit of a tornado at the time so we just I just went out every day almost every day just anywhere I could go find anyone I could and just take shots of people in the street nobody portrayed stuff did you did you have at that point the intent of being a professional photographer or were you just so in love with this this new process that you just kind of immersed yourself in it there's never a really a conscious decision to to do this full-time and well I guess there was but six months later maybe so six months I was just so into it I was just whatever just take photos take photos take photos and yeah just fell in love with it completely and were you showing your photos around at that point or were these really strictly for you more for me and then I and then I started showing some people and I showed some people a little Flickr site at the time put some stuff up on Flickr and and you know people kind of liked it and and I put more and more stuff up there and and I kind of felt like at the time then I was I guess I was transitioning and and getting to a point where I singing you know what this is it you know I'm I think it's kind of it's quite a moment when you kind of go you know what this I think this is what I should be doing I'm doing something you enjoy but it not being the thing you should be doing but I when I got photography I was like ah ah suffice it but I came so photography kind of became much more satisfying than the design very quickly it sounds like oh yeah yeah yeah I mean it's so instant as well and I don't think those ever the greatest designer but and for me design is more you sort of really come up with something from scratch with the camera you find something and then then obviously you put your own interpretation on that subject so did use already ready-made you just have to find it and capture it in your own way right right did you gravitate to faces and and people straight away before you know architecture or street photography or anything like that was it faces from the beginning yeah but straight faces so I guess street culture mm-hmm so I would shoot just random people in the street and definitely would be more or more close-ups than so further away or environmental or chair so you were asking permission I mean you you would walk up to strangers ask me I shoot your portrait okay so take pictures of people who wouldn't know as well I mean just depends mm-hmm and from there I I did some I did some morsel but a journalistic stuff as well I played around with it but but I just think like kind of you quickly I was much more comfortable doing or traced I did did black and white come from the beginning did you play with color your blood it's fit it's funny now that you mentioned drawing you're you're much of your black-and-white work has this sort of graphite quality to it in the way it's it's I wonder is that intentional or did you just sort of happen upon a look that you likes I know you've said in the past that your style if there is a style is kind of hard to define I think it changes or I think it has changed mm-hmm I'm certainly know in this sort of six years I've been I I've been shooting a lot I think my style has changed a bit and the black and white the toning has changed about I thinking to start with my glove always tended to be like very light and very black and they're probably less so now there's a little bit more of a tonal range I suppose I think yeah it's it's interesting even even your colour work is not your colour work is not typical color uh-huh there's still a mood enos to it and I was I was actually looking at there are two photos at the end of of your recent work shot in the same hotel room or bedroom wherever it is is it a hotel the two with the girl yes yeah okay so same room but very different color grading yeah and very different feel overall from from the two images and I find that interesting that you would put them together together like that yeah well I guess what they are two separate images all those shot them on at the same time they weren't really for an editorial or anything else so this was a personal piece no this is a shop for a model agency so there are a couple models so just did some stuff for that book and so yeah you can kind of treat the images differently you don't have to kind of put them together so they're exactly the same I guess is a bit weird putting them together but you know my arts and my website weird anyway so I guess people don't find it too strangely no I don't think it's a weird I find it interesting that just that just making subtle color changes can have such a dramatic effect on on how how you react to the image right yeah I mean for me that's there's me just experiment I use these kind of little sessions if I'm doing anything for model agency or whatever just to experiment with some different stuff so I always try lighting stuff slightly differently and we we set up likes differently than we normally would and we used one continuous light and then we use a model lamp and we did it all we just we just sort tried different stuff so I think quite possibly the actual light was different on the two different girls as well I don't remember and then so that might have affected the way we edited the grade as well but you're right the color can can give it a different feel for sure do you approach lighting differently when you know something or have an idea that it's gonna be black and white as the final product versus color sometimes yeah just bare anymore it depends as well I mean I normally when I'm shooting I kind of know what I want to do in the image so I know that I'm gonna keep it color I know I'm going to give it keep it black and white of course you shooting film then you know it's gonna be black and white sometimes but yeah generally well but I try to keep my lighting sort of consistent but I always know that there will be some changes because sometimes I shoot just available light and then obviously it can look quite different as well but I don't like ending the looks I don't really like anything that looks too commercial I don't like anything that looks like it's got 12 lights on it right you know what I mean yeah yeah yeah so do you have a preference of strobes vs constant lights you mentioned using constants on this hotel shoot I really love using HMI lights which we didn't use on this when you use a smaller I think with LED bank lights but using HMI but they I don't actually have any so we have to rent those as we use them they're super expensive with a really nice they're really nice and it's almost like having them it's almost like having this in your hands you know it just produces really beautiful line highly recommend it should give it a go try it get out there go rent yourself some HMI lights top two giant HMI lights and I'll be sitting there on an empty set wondering what to do with them just go grab a random person from the street shoot them yeah that's what I do sometimes it's great try it well you live in a very interesting place yeah yeah I do is interesting place I mean I'm kind of lucky to be where I am it's good yeah this it has its pitfalls the light isn't particularly nice I don't think really yeah no I don't think so a favorite light for me I think is LA California stunning it's yeah the light there is stunning I just go out in the afternoon no need for licenses brilliant but here Bangkok can be flat could be quite flat like a big soft box sometimes it can be quite flat alike it's not as much as people think it might be there's a cinematic quality to your work and we kind of talked a little bit about it offline that's it's not you said it's not really derived from cinema per se but but it is a very cinematic quality these characters and the way that they're captured the way that you photograph people is is at least indirectly inspired or it seems to be indirectly inspired by film as a city or thing nothing really specific I do like kind of cinematic look and feel so I do try and push in that direction it's something I want to push even further I still feel like you know the way I light stuff is not all that cinematic make me I think I could improve on that but yeah I'm definitely I definitely really like that strong black and white built me look but in color as well I mean the nice old filmy color is really nice as well rather than that kind of new spark booster yeah it's it's nice to see things go to black you know it's it's nice to see figures sort of hearing out of shadow right yeah it has to be no everything has to be bright and sparkly I don't think well for me certainly not I don't really find anything it's too commercial looking all that appealing really mm-hmm although it has its place I suppose but yeah for me personally I prefer it to look a little bit raw maybe a little bit more hazard maybe less mm-hmm let's thought about more more captured on the fly maybe okay and do clients seem to resonate to this I mean is this is this something that is this one of the qualities that you're becoming or have become known for I don't know I think January I think thoughts I'm talking to people I think I'm known for such strong portraits I suppose where the clients really like that probably know I think most clients tend to tend to like stuff that looks a little bit cleaner too I think most adverse certainly advertising everything is clean and clean and polished and it's very slick isn't it very slick yeah but I do think that very slowly we we're moving away from it I think that I think there's more of an appreciation now for stuff that's not super sharp but something is not super polished and I think over the next few years even the fashion world will get a it's beginning to get a little bit more analogue a bit more arty which is nice what do you think is driving that change I mean it's it's because it's kind of an aesthetic shift overall is it is it this sort of maybe maybe people are tired of over retouched mm-hmm images of things that just look too perfect to be real I mean I still think if you look at the market I would say probably the de market it's still 80% 90% in that bracket in terms of they still want really super polished up but I do see I do have a feeling that it's shifting slowly where do you see it shifting from there there is there a particular sort of strata of client that is it fashion that's kind of driving it yes you see a lot more so gritty black-and-white stuff now and certainly more than you did two three four years ago I think I think that's driving the advertising stuff though it's still really super super clean and slick mm-hmm and then there's different types of photography in that I guess whether that'll change or not I don't know I have no idea it's ironic to me that that this sort of black-and-white film look is on the rise as actual black and white films being discontinued I think that actually it will start to go up again I think demand will start to increase because I think all of those people who started in digital go and now may be applying presets or whatever they look like film film camera and just shoot film instead of trying to make it look like phone yeah yeah or Dubai's you know but I do think Instagram or all some of some of the other iPhone then you know look it's all how to make your stuff look a bit more like film right right so there's definitely people prefer do you find one more difficult or even more satisfying than the other film or digital Mia maybe film is more satisfying I do just because the process of of shooting film is is more involved so when you get something it was really nice it just feels this feels nice just feels really good and it has a different look to it I don't like I don't know what it is it's not just the grain there's this something about the way that black-to-white transitions in films that's different from digital to me is it off-putting to have clients on set for you or do you do you mind aye-aye I don't mind but I generally don't like to be tethered up to to a computer more often than not that doesn't happen mm-hmm only someone's really insistent I think that whole story about you know the more people get involved in the process I think it gets a little bit weaker right so I think it's much nicer if you just kind of let me get on with it it's a it's an interesting contrast isn't it coming from a design background which is generally sort of committee based right to to photography which is I think arguably the best work comes between just you and the subject without anyone else absolutely great my favorite photography is myself and subjects and nobody else a no makeup is no stylist no client no system even if possible just some of the shoots I've enjoyed the most literally when I've taken someone and just walked around just literally look for like just look for nice pockets of like to share haven't even taken likes with me just look for decent natural light and taken one camera and one lens is it a hard sell winner when you're when you go to a client and say hey look I just I need this to be pared down a little bit well you know I mean I would hope most people I work with kind of want to work with me because they like my worse if they like my work then obviously they trust they trust what I want to do so it shouldn't really be a massive problem thing it could be a problem when you've got you know bigger budgets and people expect there to be a lot more there I think you know I think if you look at some of the budgets some of the advertising working in New York London or wherever I think the clients are gonna freak the guy turns up with just you know just himself in the flash right walks in with just a camera and a fifty no key no camera bag where are we gonna go just gonna go we just walk around I think I think this is the thing I mean the budgets so big you need to you need to plan a lot more than that you can't just go well we'll just wing it and see what happens you can't break up you've got a you've got to sit down and at least have a at least but have a very strong plan about what you're gonna do it just depends I mean sometimes you can go out and shoot there's no client it's great you just go out and do whatever and I think you get some really really beautiful stuff like that mm-hmm and then you've got more options something might change let's try this let's try that and that always happens anyway when you when you're anyways I let's try this let's try that do you remember your first your first gig first gig yeah my first gig was first gig was shooting a was shooting a conductor almost a composer conductor a fellow monic conductor so that was good I didn't really didn't know what I was doing in terms of commercially or or how to price a job or anything else so it was no assistant and no gear and I'm yeah I was really new to it but we've got some great photos and at the end of the day that's but that was what he wanted but you know it was a bit it was a bit nerve-racking the first one how did you get it contacted me I think by this point I've put together my own website said someone had found my website and just even though he got really nice strong wall trace on and I want to do something similar yeah it's it's funny the you mentioned not knowing how to price and not knowing what to charge and that business side of photography seems to be almost a steeper learning curve than actually making images yeah I there's probably a lot less information to help that but for people to try and try and find this out I mean mm-hmm yeah if you look online there's and you want to find out how to like a portray oh yeah there's a thousand resources exactly but what could charge for that portrait no one's gonna tell you yeah no I think you have to find I know there are all sorts of different formulas you can work out okay what's my cost of doing business both over blocks but I think really you just have to you just have to work out okay what am I happy with you know what am i happy with for this mm-hmm what do I think it's worth yeah yeah and you want to go into a job happy with what you're charging and and happy with what you're doing so I think yeah as long as you're happy with it it's okay and the clients happy with it I mean we things up it's in there I'm over priced jobs under priced jobs it happens doesn't it now when you when you were first shooting were you still in London at the time or where were you dollars in I was in Asia so okay you started in Asia yeah so nature so I was doing a lot of street called trade stuff in and around Asia Bangkok wherever so yeah not not so much in the UK really was it a conscious choice I mean did did you did you go to Asia before you started shooting or once you've started shooting was that the place you thought you needed to be no I was here already so it was in Asia already and you know I just happened to be here when I when I first picked up a camera so and it's a great backdrop so I'm kind of lucky really us it is it is a great place to shoot especially if we want to do street photography you've talked a little bit about the markets when we were talking last week the UK versus versus Bangkok or Asia in general are different do you think being in that market helped you get noticed more so than being in in the UK whatever do you think it made it didn't matter I don't think it matters really I mean I think I've been noticed because my online presence is you can see my stuff here there and everywhere I guess right so I think that helped a lot I mean interesting ly enough I think if you try and Google photographer in Asian you won't find me anywhere so that kind of thing I'm not very good at but in terms of being here and it helping me no not really well I guess in a way some of my subjects would be more unusual because they're not walking around Eastern London maybe so right if you're in you're in America or the UK you sing a bunch of Asian faces predominantly Micra certainly my early stuff mainly Asian faces so that might have made it stand out a little bit and of course there was some interesting stuff I shot some stuff at some festivals and things like that so kind of unusual settings as well mm-hmm so people might take notes there well in the way the way you shoot faces is unique in and of itself I mean you're not you're not looking for an obvious or you don't seem to be looking for an obvious feature you're looking for maybe those features that that go unnoticed most of the time is that fair yeah I do you say I've I've never studied you'll never never learn photography through through either a course or an apprenticeship or anything else so I probably just gone into it completely blind and kind of worked out how to do things on my own so develop ways of doing porch show which may well be correct but work well for me right right and has the design background helped I mean a lot of your portraits are very graphic in nature I think so and also I think in terms of composing an image or composition in general I think you learn a lot of that through design and then know that obviously we'll all day in some go into your photography as well what with home other things well what else could I say about the portray sup I think I'm always looking for something different mm-hmm I don't want something standard I don't I do want something that someone's gonna look at hopefully and and probably ponder or think about or come back to our interesting faces stronger than beautiful faces yeah yeah I think an interesting face well certainly for me is a lot more interesting than a beautiful face I mean you can't have two two together but there can be quite separate as well I think the eyes are the most important I might sound like a bit like a cliche but their eyes tell you a story tell you something but if you have something interesting in the eyes and I think you could portray that that's where it all begins for you I do so yeah and then if you can get an angular one in a nice composition everything goes with it and you can light it well yeah all those things working together then you're gonna get a nice portray but if you can get something if you could look at picture and you can look at someone's eyes and have a feeling that there's something there you might not know what it is you might not know his anger or passion or arrogance or whatever but there is something there then you're going to connect to it just on a human level you is going to connect you're going to connect to that person when you when you're shooting portraits do you spend a fair bit of time beforehand if you if you're allowed kind of getting to know that person or do you like going in cold and and how do you approach them depends on the person I think if I have time I'd like to spend more time with people I've had people that I've shot I've shot and then I you know I've had them around for dinner the night before and you know just sit down have a nice chat it's depends if I get the feeling somebody might be a little bit awkward or nervous or whatever then I will take the time to to get to know them a bit more it's something I'd like to do but it's not always possible sometimes you have two minutes and that's it well sometimes you might just meet someone in the street you know or or just capture someone in the stream then you have no time at all but there's something interesting about that person and it is still possible to connect though even even if you have a few seconds yes I mean your your street photos really seem to confirm that that they're they're not random they're not I don't know they're still intentional despite only having a few moments with each person sometimes it's better each one but I do think you can connect with someone really quickly and even someone that doesn't speak the same language you know you can be industry he wants you've got your camera it's pretty obvious what you want to do smile friendly face and people will generally warm up and go okay you know I don't I think most people are okay too the photo taken if you ask you still do a lot of personal work not as much as I'd like to although this year I'm trying to push that again I last year didn't do quite so much this year I want to do a lot more personal work and certainly towards the end of this year I'm doing a lot more I think it's important to do personal work because you've been just doing commercial work or whatever it can get them stale I suppose so it's good to keep pushing us and stuff as well mm-hmm I think we would try and do some personal stuff you know on the old day off you'll just grab a camera and go yeah grab a camera off you go there's a tonal difference between some of your early work and some of the recent work that's up on your site a lot of things on in the recent area are against white or lighter backgrounds versus the darker backgrounds of some of your early work is that conscious of my my sort of personal stuff tends to be a lot darker a lot of the commercial stuff tends to be a bit brighter Disqus clients don't want more willing to answer and you know I am balancing life between trying to do some more fine art etype portray stuff but also have clients who want stuff that is a bit more commercial so yeah that's why I think you know as I've got more poker but less time to do personal stuff so kind of a blessing though isn't it oh god yeah I can't complain yeah no it's fantastic I think the key is to to really get to that point where you just earn shitloads money from your personal stuff that we proved you've got that client's every grow yeah yeah but you know you have to so I do try and keep my stuff true to what it is but I did go through a period I think where I tried to make my more commercial but now so we'll just polish my work a bit more just having a little bit more polished a bit less dark and threatening maybe but now I'm thinking you know what no I just want to just get you know you just got to do your own thing someone was conscious about what I'm putting out there when you're when you're trying to be polished as you said was where you were you less happy with the work yeah even if even if clients were happy with it did you find it less satisfying yes and not just our you know as I'm trying to learn new techniques and you learn new ways to lighting so there's gonna be there's gonna be some trial and error in there as well mm-hmm do you know what I mean so you kind of get it not quite the way you want it because you try a new technique so you try to light it differently or whatever I mean that seems to be that sort of drama and intensity is is core to your work yeah or it seems to be yeah I mean that's I have this theory or not theory really got bogus it is a theory but I think you should shoot what you want to cut on your wall okay I you know that's what I would want on my wall I want dramatic dark powerful photos mm-hmm that's what I'd like on my wall so that's what I want to show you that's why I should be shooting what I should be shooting is what I would like to have up on my wall because that really is true to what I like and so I think that would make that should make my work stronger that makes sense yeah it does it's I think it's great and it seems that you have found a client base that are also very happy with that so it's it's it's best of both worlds you're shooting the things that make you happy but you're also shooting these things that are that are satisfying a growing number of clients yeah maybe that's to do with I think more I think more clients now are are looking for something other than just a bearing clean polish sparkling colorful image do more clients now more companies now more advertisers now realizing they're one strong powerful image can can make people come back home what people will remember it I think it's really difficult now because image is just you know so many photos you see we see so many photos we see thousands and thousands and thousands above it most of them are not worth remembering most really don't remember right you know I've come be a whore it might pop on on one of these sharing sites I won't remember the photos I won't remember them I wouldn't I think if I saw if we went to Flickr Explorer or whatever today and looked at that page I think if I went if I saw that Zach I saw four of those photos in a year's time I wouldn't remember they were the same picture right do you know what I mean is that is that memorability is that what I mean are you are you conscious that you're trying to create that are you trying to create yeah fine art images even in the commercial work I would like to so that there's no separation that this could be equally an advertising image or a fine art photo that somebody would buy and hang on their wall in an ideal world I'm really know that there aren't many clients out there like that I I think commercially when you look commercially I think I think you have so many people go into the process of making an advertising image but generally it can be quite weak you don't want to be the photographer that blows the campaign no it's not me so much it's actually I think it's the it's the art buyers that bring you in on it so you need you need to have you need to have clients who know not necessarily brave but are looking for for something that had something a bit more than a glossy pretty image mm-hmm and you know all the I'm sure all the market research tells you that if you want to sell a packet of crisps then you know a pretty girl with a big wide smile is more likely to sell it than some scary and comforta black most product so you really have to just kind of I think this is true most probably you probably just have to kind of target target your your art buyers whether it's editorial or commercial you have to kind of young boy who would be interested in my work clearly have you some you know clearly I know my works not really suitable for some clients yeah for some clients I think it can work quite well well you've touched on it a couple times that photography is so subjective yeah or it looks it looks over processed on the web yeah all right I wish he would have opened up the shadows here or I wish he would have done this you know whatever it is but for every one of those people there's also going to be someone hopefully that goes wow this is exactly what we're looking for good yeah I think when you I mean I take I drown out the shadows as you probably notice through a lot of stuff and that's there's often because a lot of this stuff that's that's there it's not needed it's not necessary it's not it doesn't tell you anything doesn't give you any information that improves the photo doesn't give you any information that sheds any light on the person you're looking at so it just becomes a distraction she doesn't need to be there for me yeah no that's that's brilliant it's not it's not just a question of oh it's more powerful because it's black and white it's all black it's just why why why does it need to be their voice point of it if the bottom fell out tomorrow and and somehow you know it was it was communicated to you that the atomic moody business not gonna fly yeah what do you do do you do you change your style or do you do you do something else if you weren't doing this type of work what would you do you won't no I wouldn't change my style I did I think I learn and I I think if you if you don't do what what it's particular what's the word if you don't do what is essentially you in terms of what is your creative vision and what you're gonna produce is gonna be a bit weak mm-hmm by using it'll just come off as a knockoff yeah I'm firmly of the opinion that I think you've got to do your own thing and then you just then need to find people who would like your work mm-hmm or use your work or hire you or whatever else but I think you go do your own thing and I think I've tried to to kind of lighten up my work or but whatever at times and I think that the work is not quite so strong it gets a bit weaker so I think so I think if somebody said to me you know your Styles not gonna fly it's not gonna go anywhere then I will just do it anyway and hope that someone enjoys it in 300 years or whenever it comes back yeah yeah when it comes back around yeah exactly when you're starting with you know six years ago yeah when you when you pick up a camera do you go through the I'm gonna shoot like Avedon or I'm gonna shoot like Irving Penn or shoot to try and find your style or or to find you know how you shoot you know first picked up a camera I didn't really know how it worked I just shot it and it was a while before I I kind of figured out what happened to men and charts and things like that and I and I'm not a particularly technical person I don't find technical up talking all that interesting I do understand it all now but I do clients like that you still shoot on program because I'm a professional some people freak out when they see I've got manual focus lenses of aha salad why is that lens move all we talking about clients freaking out when they know me technical not really being that fascinated with the technical side photography not really that much I think and also I had no idea about photographers I was not when they first started I didn't have I didn't have a strong interest in photography mmm-hmm I just sort of fell into all of it by mistake so I think when you if you know if you'd ask me on a picked up a camera do you know what do you think about it and I would have been who's that I don't know I breakdance and yeah so I kind of I don't know where my style came from the only thing is I do I know I completely forgotten about this but I just I'm kind of remembered at this of a year ago or two years ago I remember back when I was when I was when I was a young teenager I remember my my bedroom wall was literally covered in black and white portray photos taken from various different sort of magazines and fashion magazines and time line baits and that sort of thing I don't completely talk about this until we was talking to some friends about you know way back when when we were teenagers I don't know you remembered it and I was like you know what I think that's maybe deep down got something to do with with why I like portrait shots so much obviously like even back then so you were just tearing or cutting clippings out of magazines and putting them up yeah I mean if I saw a really great portray fashion or just a normal portrayed yeah I was tearing out sticking it up on the wall so my wall was just covered with with portraits I wonder why then did you did you pursue design at that point rather than photography straightaway maybe at the time I didn't have a camera but not particularly good one I'm just never really into photography I canvas into you know when you're when you're sort of 16 year old guy in Dorset and this is a few years ago it's a completely different life you know in fashion photographers or portrait photographers in London it doesn't seem like there's a connection between the two if that makes sense mm-hmm my life on the farm is so far removed from that that you don't even think that that might ever in the future be what you end up doing more possibilities you know it would friends have been surprised or were they surprised if they went like indie room and seeing all these things on the wall I mean I think most most teenagers put stuff up on the wall posters whatnot mm-hmm it wasn't like a wedge flowing [Laughter] 600 wham pictures [Laughter] romance Panda [Laughter] living in Asia to to somebody like me who you know has spent all of my life in the US there's an amazingly exotic quality to the subject matter that enhances the work right but it's subjective do you absolutely because if absolutely somebody here I mean you know I know it's in Asia you look at a lot of the fashion stuff and they try and make it look very European because European is quite exotic and you know I think you know I think the European face it's very exotic for anybody who's here if it's bright separators but yeah I can see what you mean I mean there's a shot that you have of these monks that are it's beautiful oh that's super my I think the black and white one Myanmar Burma yeah gorgeous thank you yeah this was I I went there with a with a small group of photographers I took a small group guys there on a small trip and we went to we went to this monastery and we spent the morning in the monastery and it was amazing just really really really beautiful there's some more on my blog I think you can see I got some more shots from this monster oh yeah it's great and the light was really nice they were flooding out of a dark room into the sunlight so you can see the light just kind of catches them across on one side and it was also something above their heads on the left's of the lights of coming across from the right-hand side so the light was a bit more interesting was there was there any apprehension to to letting you photograph them at all from some of them yeah I'm not maybe not apprehension it was more curiosity I think you know the country is and he just opened up so there weren't too many people going in there and shooting until recently but no it was okay that's fine and I think it was more curiosity than anything else but these two in particular you can I mean you can see from the photo they've got no interest in me whatsoever I just I just but for this particular image I just really like that the the faces of the two monks said both got really interesting expressions mm-hmm looks almost angry yeah there's an intensity to his gaze that isn't mirrored in the other the other pride yeah there's a sort of wide-eyed you know gaze and the other person but this guy he's the little guy he's not sure about you know one of them might attack me anytime photographer attacked in monastery it's a great experience in there yeah really amazing and so so so photogenic you know one of these dark red robes and and hundreds and hundreds of of novice monks all over the place so yeah it's great and a really photogenic building as well mm-hmm that's great you see that's photography I should work you should go you should I should go yeah I'm waiting for you to finish the house man do you have a camera with you most of the time no I need my telephone no but I do carry it with me sometimes I use carry a lot more now not so much not so much I mean for me if I have a camera with me I won't be necessarily looking for things to photograph but I would like to have a camera with me and if I happen across something I want to take a picture of or find somebody I want to take a picture of then I have my camera with me and I can go ahead and do it mm-hmm but I won't necessarily try and force it if that makes sense sure and I'm not that kind of photographer sit somewhere and wait either be at some photographers who go right that's my scene and now I'm gonna wait for the perfect moment it's right wait for some action to take place sure yeah that's right I'm not that kind of talk fryer I don't patience for it so I'll wander around and come across someone and and shoot them do you know when you when you've got it when you're shooting it or do you have to get back to the studio and look are there where do you typically fall oh when I shoot it I know generally mm-hmm I know and I normally keep going until I've got it although most people who've seen me shoo know that I'm pretty quick I might do shoot quite a quick in terms of like kind of know what I want I get it pretty quick and then move on but if I haven't got it I'll keep going to keep going to keep going to get 16 hours later I mean it sounds like it's always been that way since you started shooting that there there's there's this internal vision that you've had kind of since the beginning yes I think so and but I think it has wavered as I kind of try to make my way and you know in some ways make my work more commercial more editorial try and make it a bit more fashion II all over so in that sense it's kind of wavered but the core is the same and I think I'm now going back to just wanting to shoot where possible were just really nice good strong stuff mm-hmm if I I don't know I mean if I really could I would just I would love to shoot images that you know in a hundred years time or two years twelve years time to actually go back to and go oh you know this guy was all right which sounds really poncey I know but I think if you don't aim high you're you're not even gonna come close sure you know so I I try and I try and set some lofty goals for myself and see if we get and then hopefully it'll push me to to sort of try and do some better work you know have you have you reached any of those with with is there anything in your portfolio now where you go yep oh that's that's my benchmark that's I need to do more of that or you still are you still searching I think I'm still searching or I mean I do have some images that I'm I think are okay and they stand up and I think we'll be long-term as if you like they're not too fashionable this they're not going to go they're not gonna go out of fashion I think someone photography goes out of fashion sure and and then it's just gone yeah anything this affair died I I think I think I think if photography should be like a black hole in it and what I mean by that is Geoffrey when you were 20 in 1954 so the neck thanks thanks for that [Laughter] in 20 years time right and no one's gonna laugh at you in the street and go what the hell you're wearing right black t-shirt or blue pair of jeans these sort of things right and is this the way you try and approach your work yeah I want to make a bunch of blackness I would like to make work that's gonna stand up long term so hopefully not too fashionable if that means although I'm sure some people will be listening to this and looking at my work and going easy talk keep trying hoops oh it's you to March or so it's a it's a tricky one this tricky one I think I'm probably my own worst critic oh my word hmm you you've got a book of one image to present is can you choose one image that that describes you or or defines you as a photographer that you've shot one photo one photograph it finds me you know what I think one fire I really really really love but it's not even that good maybe it's um if you go on personal bit on my website and you scroll along and you see like a a kid space she's got Down syndrome uh-huh it really fills the frame yeah I like that I don't know maybe that and I know a lot of people don't like it or even think it's very good or even very interesting but it's powerful yeah so maybe that one maybe that one but I'm not essential what yeah you know you you've mentioned though a few times now where there's a core to your work there's sort of a baseline that you that you will stray from well you'll experiment away from but you do come back to Center because Center works the the center of the sort of baseline that you've that you've either had from the beginning or that has evolved over the past six years is that's your strength yeah and and yes you'll push in one direction or another but in the end it seems that you've got a very strong belief in your aesthetic and and that's what you're keeping alive that's what you're refining that's what you're honing if you will yeah oh trying to do yeah yeah but I do like to experiment as well you know it's kind of like I want to experiment but I don't want to go and do you know I don't want to experiment to the point where it doesn't look like my work I think I want I want to put ten of my pictures online in front of someone but you see my work before you go I know that I know that guys work yeah even though you might not see those pictures you've got a bet that's times if that makes sense yeah absolutely that I'm pretty sure if I showed you ten pictures from a burden or pen or whatever you'd recognize it as they'll try even if you haven't seen those particular photos before so I think if you experiment it's quite difficult to bring yourself in you know you might have a style if you experiment you always pushing your style into maybe another realm so it's a bit tricky it's a bit dodgy area to get into do but you've got to experiment to keep your work pushing forward do you think there's a too many photographers try and consciously create a style instead of letting a style emerge from the way they shoot or that would emerge from their body of work yeah yeah I mean it's got to be just about you hasn't it you just gotta follow your your passion and that's why I said try and shoot what you want on your wall mm-hmm and don't try and shoot what other people are shooting or don't try and do something in that start sometimes I've seen you know people have gone on trying to shoot this in my style or or another photographer style and online this okay it's okay to to try that to see what techniques produce that kind of work but that's not really what you want in your portfolio right that makes sense yeah I mean you end up shooting through somebody else's lens yeah which doesn't make sense and and at the end of the day if you're true to your own thinking it's only gonna be you and photography is infinite you and I can shoot the same bottle of coke but we'll never get the same photo right even if we light it the same we'll never get the same photo because we have a different angle different lens well you know so this is infinite but I yeah I think there are photographers who who do trip up a bit and I think there are photographers who who flip from from one style to the next and that that doesn't what do you mean that we're looking for some sort of commercial viability or why do you think that if sometimes that and sometimes they just go you know there maybe they look online I mean or they look in magazines they call that's nice and then they try and do that and then the goal that's nice and then they try and do that and then you know I don't know who did it but but at some point a few weeks ago or maybe a few months ago there are all these portraits which would double exposure with leaves and trees sure where it was kind of a silhouette and then they would fill the silhouette with with foliage and branches and stuff yeah yeah I had a nice good it's great that the portrait but then there were more people doing it and then I noticed there were some tutorials online and this is how we do it and and my point is well okay try it but don't put that in your portfolio and I don't see why you've then now got a project doing the same thing I don't get it I'm like what's the point this guy's just done it right why on earth you do this well all right well it creates an inconsistency in your own body of work oh yeah you know I mean people to your point yes experiment but this thing by and large you go ahead deep I think if anyone's trying to do that they're gonna kick themselves kick themselves in the head by doing it I mean at the end of the client doesn't want it mm-hmm if you're the client Geoffrey you come to me you go Tom I want a portrait but then you come on my website and I've got 20 different styles that's the right one you're gonna go grow person who's got a fairly strong vision of what they want and you look at their work and you go right that's what I'll end up with right now not a whole mixed bag stuff yeah odds are you're not going to get hired for the experiment as much as the consistency right generally yeah yeah and clients want to know what they're gonna get Iced they're telling my thing no I'll keep doing that stop Peter in this dark eating that stall it's not the right way to hire a photographer right I'm sure it does happen yeah but I mean look you're being hired for generally again for what you do best in my opinion as the client or in my opinion as the art buyer or whatever I'm I'm seeing this body of work and I'm gonna recommend you on that body of work right yeah yeah you would host although you do get art directors and whatnot who-who will just try and force a photographer to shoot it in a style that they like I mean certainly out in I've seen them out here occasionally maybe in they've seen something in GQ in the UK or whatever and then it's like Ark we want to shoot something like that and so the photographer becomes better comedian to shoot different styles and they can do it but it's not it's not as good as it could be that was gonna be my question they can do it but but can they it does it does it get to that level no well this is the point it doesn't get to that level doesn't get to the level of that guy who shot it in the first place who's probably all of his work is like that so if you if you if you let me go from one style to the other is it ever at that top level no I don't think so that's why they can't chop and change too much there's a photo on your site it's one of my favorite photos that you've that you've done oh I'm sorry did it did I not say that I'm sorry that's what I meant there's there's this photo that's the reason to purchase a camera [Laughter] it's beautiful it's it's his girl she has a beautifully long neck hair pulled back gorgeous eyes very chiseled yes yes love that photograph but on my best day if somebody said I want you to shoot something like Tom hoops right I couldn't do that and that seems disingenuous – it seems disingenuous – a photographer and to photography to say look I want you to shoot like Annie Leibovitz well then go hire any Leibovitz right but sometimes its availability as well as now mm-hmm sure I think this still fits but some smaller clients it's for some smaller clients I think they still think some photographer is a bit like a graphic designer in terms of oh we want a website like that can you design it like this right and even even graphic designers a higher level don't do that they do that stuff in their own style that's why you hire them sure but I do for smaller companies they just you know they look at some crepes and just sink creatives can do where they want them to do right because they are created you're a photographer you should be able to shoot portraits sports weddings but at the very highest level for the very biggest campaigns it doesn't happen mm-hmm you know they like right what we're gonna do and who's the best photographer to do this and then that's when the art buyer goes through their stack of photography links or whatever or cards or whatever and go right Jeffery's the guy to shoot this because he's the best driver mm-hmm you know where do you where do you pull from when you're not shooting is is there do you let outside influences inspire you consciously or is it unconscious and you just do what you do you know I try and I try and limit oh I see more so than look for more stuff how so how do you mean I dust it last year with you before I made a conscious effort to stop looking at most of the stuff that is online everywhere just photography or they are to make any photography know the cat is fine but mainly photography because there is so much of it but there is a lot of not great stuff out there mm-hmm and I don't think it's healthy to be bombarded by weak photography so rather sort of letting that into your filter you just eliminate it all together I try to do as much as possible but yeah and I do yeah I do try and fill that out if I can has it helped I don't know I think so yeah and and I would you know I I have books here and and things like that so if I'm ever feeling a little bit sad for myself then I might stick my head into a Helmut Newton book or whatever it's see their path narrowing up a little girl that's lovely and you know just just really great with the world photography again I think miss you so much online you know that whenever you're online you just see you know just the same stuff right yeah you're just inundated with it yeah and I don't think it's healthy and I think it is good to have a place where you can go and there is just really inspiring beautiful photography and then you can look at that instead it doesn't obviously doesn't it shouldn't be your own stuff but it's great photography out there any kind of writer inspire you will just not necessarily inspire you creatively to go and do something similar we just talked about you don't want that but what you do want is is surround self would just really well-done stuff mm-hmm whatever it may be sure yeah I mean you know you put a you put a mediocre football or in a great team he's gonna play better football you put him in a team and they'll start playing sheet football right I said joy it was wasn't until I was dirty stumbling I picked up the camera I kind of wish I picked it up when I was 20 but then I might not be the same kind of photographer I don't know mm-hmm why I'm sure it would have been fun they might fashion and portrait photographer in London when I was 20 I'm telling I would have had a ball yeah but yeah but you don't know if you would have ended up here that's that's the beginning yeah that's him I often wonder if one taken up talking when I was 20 what my book would look like what didn't he similar would it be different would it be full of different kind of images would I have been really successful being a 25 year old bashing photographer in London and he loads money being super happy and would it have changed the kind of work that I do I don't know or would it have gone the other way you didn't get the work you didn't get the client he became incredibly frustrated and you gave it up and and then where would you be yeah really Bucky years ago no didn't have what it takes turns out what happy in his nine-to-five no I love love sandwiches with the crusts cut off sandwich I've got a nuts yeah stay tuned it's gonna be a fascinating time [Laughter] something passionate about it and it works and people appreciate what you do has photography made you a better person oh god I don't know or don't know it makes make me a different person I think so well I think it's just very different you know it's I mean when we do what we're doing now if it hadn't been for photography we wouldn't be talking right and I wouldn't be talking to any of other people and no one would know who I am and I mean obviously a lot of people don't know who I am now but I mean just yes change which I don't know if it's maybe better I think it's maybe more observant and I think it's my we very keenly observant about people tonight think maybe maybe that was something I had before really really pick up on people's emotions really quickly and that's gonna just about do it for a terrific conversation with Tom hoops I'd like to thank Tom for taking the time to sit down with me if you'd like to see Tom's work head over to his website Tom hoops comm you can also follow him on instagram and twitter at tom hoops on both of those i can be found on twitter at Jeffrey's odorous and if you enjoyed the conversation please consider subscribing to process-driven on itunes or by searching for it in your favorite podcast app there are lots more great conversations in the works and I hope you'll come back for them thanks for listening you