Tom Chambers interview
Blue Mitchell: Tell us more about your background (where you grew up; childhood experiences) and how you came to photography.
Tom Chambers: I was born and raised on a farm in the Amish Country of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Following high school, I entered the Navy where I served for four years, including time on a land base during the Vietnam War. Following military service, I worked and traveled around the United States, Caribbean, and Canada. Combing these life-altering experiences with the influences on my extended family of artists, I entered art school and completed a V.A. in 1985 from the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida with an emphasis in graphic design and a strong interest in photography. For many years I have worked as a graphic designer, including the design of flat printed material, packaging, and magazines. Through my work as an art director, I have become very attuned to the wide range of photographic approaches and the ability of software, such as Photoshop, to enhance photographic expression. Since 1998 I have devoted myself to photomontage.
Perhaps my work will spark some change in attitudes and behavior.
Can you describe the process you used to create Entropic Kingdom and how you came to it?
In the Entropic Kingdom series, I present the tension in the coexistence between man and his environment. Care for the environment and its delicate ecosystems are of great concern to me. After the recent disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, more than ever, I feel the imperative for increasing our efforts and altering our lifestyles to care for the earth. In the Entropic Kingdom series, with the use of symbolism, I attempt to reach the viewer at a conscious or unconscious level to encourage thoughtful self-reflection. Perhaps my work will spark some change in attitudes and behavior.
What aspects of photography come easy for you?
In the process of creating a photomontage, what comes most easily to me is the visualization of the final image that I want to create. The process includes first sketching this final image, or an approximation of the image, and then gathering the required shots and pieces. Pieces of the image might include the landscape or background, human figure, animal, and another object. Through the process I might slightly alter my original idea.
What about the more challenging?
Creating a photomontage involves a large amount of post-production. I have to be very thoughtful about honoring my idea for the final image. I want to avoid over-manipulation of the pieces that are included in the final image and ensure that the final gestalt feels authentic, yet a bit disturbing, and not too forced. It’s very easy to take a montage image” over the top” so there is a fine line I have to tread.
Who are some of your photographic influences and inspirations?
Having grown up on a Pennsylvania farm, I have always been very inspired by Andrew Wyeths rural landscapes and love affairs with the nature. Like Wyeth, I feel a strong emotional connection with the image that I am creating. In addition, iconic Mexican religious art, various Hispanic photographers such as Graciela Iturbide, magic realism and authors such as Gabriel García Márquez, and a range of contemporary music have inspired both creative and critical thinking. Opportunities to travel and experience different cultures have encouraged my appreciation of multiple artistic perspectives and sparked ideas for my artwork.