Thom Jackson started as a disc jockey but has now worked as a photographer for almost every fashion magazine under the sun.
What was your first camera?
Yashica Twin Lens Reflex
Do you remember the first photo you took that got you “hooked”?
Not the first subject but most significantly the first print that appeared in the developer tray. I’ve never gotten over the magic of that moment. It’s hard to imagine there are photographers shooting today who have never had that experience.
What are your go to cameras?
Canon 5DMarkIII and Nikon D800.
Your favorite cameras you have experimented with in the past?
Hasselblad CM and the SX 70 Polaroid.
Once I saw the movie Blow Up I was convinced photography was my next career
How did you get started?
Working as a DJ for a radio station, I photographed every band (press pass!) that came to town. Once I saw the movie Blow Up I was convinced photography was my next career.
Do you always have music going on a photo shoot? Are there any go-to songs?
Yes. The music varies according to the shoot. Recently we’ve played mixes from David Dann, models frequently bring in music from friends’ bands or clients have favorite music. It’s a collaborative thing.
As someone who has recently started working more with models, I am curious as a photographer how you go about the photo shoot and creating a connection. Is there anything you do to make your models feel more comfortable at a shoot?
I talk to them while they are getting hair and make up in order to establish a relationship and a comfort level between the two of us. While shooting I try to create a bond between us that blocks out all the activity in the studio that can be disruptive. It was much easier to accomplish this before digital. The stopping and looking at the screen is often frustrating for both of us. It breaks the flow of shooting and the mood can be lost.
What has been your best career decision?
1st becoming a photographer, 2nd living in and shooting in New York City for 18 years.
Do you think that it is essential to live in New York or LA to “make it” in the fashion world? New York, yes. Living and working in New York City and Europe is essential for success. It provides the experience and a frame of reference for all things important to photography. I can’t imagine not having that experience.
What is your favorite thing about photographing in Texas?
The positive attitude of the crew. Everyone works hard but we still have fun.
What was your first big break?
The selection of two of my nudes for a fine art book “The Nude In Photography.” My first commercial break
was shooting the Neiman Marcus Fur Book in Germany, Estonia, Scandinavia, and Russia.
How did you establish your personal vision?
Shooting in Italy every summer for Italian Bazaar and Vogue was a huge part of my education. Having the opportunity to photograph top models in the collections as they were introduced was an incredible experience. I hope my personal vision comes through in my current work at Craighead Green Gallery.
Who are you inspired by?
At one time I would have said this photographer or that photographer but in the long run it’s really my family, especially my wife Rebecca.
Do you have any favorite photo books?
I’m currently printing my own platinum/ palladium prints so I’m researching the process and looking at prints.
How do you define ‘success’ in your own career?
Success comes with the next photograph.
I found I really enjoy doing video. After directing and shooting two Burning Hotels music videos and a fashion video with Lydia Hearst for models.com, I plan to do more.
How did you get involved with the Impossible Project?
Like most great opportunities I fell into it. I submitted some of my Impossible Project Polaroids to them
and they asked me to test some of their new films which led to be included in their current New York show “Momentum.” I was also featured on their blog in December and I will be featured again this week as An Artist in Residence. They really are a great group to work with and the restart of the Polaroid product is an interesting and ambitious story.
Do you have a preference for working with film or digital?
Advantages and disadvantages to both. Honestly, I don’t miss the fear of waiting for clip tests to come back after returning from a two week assignment on an island in the middle of nowhere. It is great to know with digital we have the shot.
I don’t miss the fear of waiting for clip tests to come back after returning from a two week assignment on an island in the middle of nowhere
How did you get your foot in the door photographing for fashion magazines?
I had a NY rep and also one in Italy. They got me in the door and fortunately the magazines liked my work. It was a great opportunity.
Can you elaborate a little on how you found representation? Do you think it is essential?
In order to get top representation, you have to have existing clients that you bring to the agency. It’s all about who you know and who knows you. It is absolutely essential.
Where do you go to keep up with what is happening in fashion photography? Do you buy fashion magazines? Any favorites?
I study everything. When I was starting out I spent a fortune on foreign fashion magazines like Italian Vogue, French Vogue, Marie Claire and many more. Now it’s mainly online publications, fashion blogs, and gallery and museum websites.
When I was starting out I spent a fortune on foreign fashion magazines
I saw that you have some videos on your site. Do you think it is important to incorporate video into your portfolio these days as a photographer?
Video is an expensive, consuming, but essential part of the business. You can’t ignore it or avoid it.
Favorite breakfast taco?
Good 2 Go
Gin and Tonic (Sapphire and Tonic actually)