Ben Thomas is a photographer and visual artist from Melbourne, Australia. His work is known for his conceptual photography centered around the cities and urban spaces utilizing various techniques such as tilt-shift photography, mirroring and use of specific color. Most of the images featured here are from his latest series ‘Chroma’ (2015) - a deconstruction of cities and urban areas with a primary focus of the use of primary colours, minimalism, and flatness. It is shot in many locations including Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, Paris and Italy and it’s an interesting contrast to Ben’s previous series ‘Anti-Chroma’ which explored the cities in a darker note.
Ben is currently representing Sony as part of the Sony Xperia Academy, showcasing Sony’s flagship mobile camera capabilities. His work has been exhibited in the USA, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo and Melbourne and featured in numerous print and online publications. He has recently completed a two month artist residency with the Villa-Lena Foundation in Tuscany.
Please tell me about yourself and your relationship with photography:
Photography is something that I have only rather late in the scheme of things become involved with. I grew up with a love of film and spent a lot of time filming bands that played in my hometown of Adelaide, Australia. It was only after moving to Melbourne in 2003 that I decided on buying a camera and setting off to discover my new hometown.
What does photography mean to you and how do you view your evolution as a photographer?
That’s something that has changed over time. To begin with I was purely focused on ‘Cityshrinker’, a series of tilt shift images that took me around the world searching for high vantage points to look down onto. Through this process of shooting ‘Cityshrinker’, I developed a certain eye that took a long time to unlearn (or evolve). My progression to today has me concentrating on colour as the mechanism to depict the scenes that I shoot.
You have been shooting very distinct urban architecture and urban-landscape images. What are the elements and characteristics of any place that affect and influence you a lot?
Simplicity is really key for me at the moment. I am always on the search for striking simplistic architecture that is coupled with vibrant flat colour.
Tell me about your method(s) or critical approaches of shooting? How much of your your work is carefully planned vs. spontaneous?
It’s an even mix. Quiet often I will carefully plan a particular shot and find that it will be a shot before or after that has come up as the best of the group. I do really love putting my headphones in and just exploring, not knowing what’s around the corner. Those images for me seem a lot more organic and special to me.
Do you believe you’ve found your style or signature?
I hope not, I think there is still so much more to explore and experiment with. While it’s great to have a distinctive aesthetic, I hope that this will evolve in ways that make me a better artist.
Tell me about the equipment (camera, lenses, software, etc.) you mostly use and why:
I am shooting on a Canon setup at the moment with a range of Sigma Art series prime lens’ (they are super fantastic). I am also using both Lightroom and Photoshop. It’s where I live to be honest, no need to move house right now!
Do you have a favorite photo or a significant memory related to photography?
There is a shot of my daughter (see above) standing on the beach with an ice-cream in Viareggio that I really love. It was a really special time and I’m thrilled to have that memory to hold onto in the form of a shot.
What do you think about contemporary photography (current trends, social media, photography as a career choice, etc.)?
It’s all moving so quickly these days. There is so much going on and so many people getting into the field that you can sometimes down in the content. Instagram seems to be one of the primary channels to meet a new audience. As far as a career is concerned, its hard to make it work these days but it’s definitely still possible and completely worth it.
Tell us about your achievements, awards, clients, publications, etc.:
I recently was invited to participate in a two month residency at the Villa-Lena foundation in Italy (www.villa-lena.org). I have also recently won the 125Live awards in London and the Desktop Magazine Create Awards (Photography) in Australia. I’ve recently done work for Sony, Tourism Australia and Chronicle Books.
Do you have plans for publishing another photobook after ‘Tiny Tokyo: The Big City Made Mini’?
Not right at the moment but I am pulling together some new ideas right now on that front.
What are your future plans/projects, ambitions, aspirations etc.?
I will be spending some more time in Europe over April. I will be exhibiting ‘Chroma’ for the first time in London and shooting some new work in Spain.
Please share your favorite stuff: photographers, quotes, films, books, music etc.
Jeffery Smart - Kiasmos - Floating Points - Noémie Goudal
Something to say to our readers or aspiring photographers:
When I got into photography all I wanted to do was produce the perfect shot, to technically nail it. I still feel like I haven’t reached that point yet but the surprising thing after a long time shooting is that the process of getting to this point has been far more rewarding that I thought. The experiences, resilience and hunger you get by going down this path is a complete story of self discovery. Get involved and stick with it. You’ll be surprised where you end up.