Creating is a means of expression, but can also allow the person who creates to know themselves. It is for this purpose that Tom Fish began his series Introspection; a way for him to express feelings in a visual way.
Hi Tom, can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Tom Fish, I’m a French photographer. I like abstract, straight and efficient things. I like it when an image can raise questions, when its author wanted to express something and when I can’t figure out what it is when it has an atmosphere. Whether in the movies or in photos, for that matter.
“[Digital] is overly flattering to my taste, too perfect, too clean.”
I have a strong penchant for film and square format. I’m moving more and more away from digital. It is overly flattering to my taste, too perfect, too clean. I’m getting a little tired of this chase to perfection. It seems that it has sometimes become the essential criteria of an image. Even if I still use it and the progress is just crazy but good, it feels good to ease up on it!
How did you start photography?
A little over seven years ago now. Well, at least, more seriously for more than seven years. Before I just had the desire to. But I had neither the equipment nor the knowledge!
After that, being from the 80~90 generation, I had touched on the taking of pictures and film development when I was a child. We were processing our pictures with my father in the toilet.
The toilets were closed for a few hours each time and it was better to say that you didn’t have to be in a hurry, you had to make your arrangements beforehand! I liked doing that. I have always liked the smell of the film and the different products.
It was a time when amateur photography (shooting and processing) was not yet highly popular. It was not confidential, far from it, but there were not thousands of photos per second like today. Having a camera was not as democratized as it is now.
“I like the imperfection, the result and the contact of the film […]”
There was a lot of action to do before having a picture, both in the shooting and in the development itself, and I liked the craftsmanship. That’s why most of my photos are in silver. Except for this series for practical and economic reasons, but it is still rare that I work in digital for my personal projects.
I like the imperfection, the result and the contact of the film and also to take the time to take the picture, to think that the trigger must be reflected, that it has and that it will have a cost.
You work differently with that in mind! Also, I’m not a fan of post-processing, it annoys me a little to stay for hours in front of a PC, I prefer the shooting part.
We’re here to talk about your self-portrait series, Introspection. How did you get the desire to stage yourself?
After living with people who didn’t fit me at all. Maybe also, well surely even, some pain when I was a child, but not only that.
Moments of joy too, I had a beautiful childhood with parents and a stepfather who
“I didn’t want to have “judgments” or advice or anything else on my ideas […]”
So I wanted to express all this through images. At first, I wanted to do it with models, male or female. To create a project with other people, open my circle a little bit (which I have trouble doing). But it was too restrictive. In terms of logistics, time, profiles… It was also necessary to make it clear what I expected but I always preferred to talk as little as possible about it. I am not very educational and sometimes I lack patience with myself and others. So it wasn’t really the best idea to want to work collaboratively.
Nor did I want to show the backstage of this project. Like a feeling of embarrassment. I didn’t want to have “judgments” or advice or anything else on my ideas and I wanted them to be mine. A little selfishness in a way or a way to protect an idea, a creation. I don’t know. After all, we’ re talking about me in here!
“It’s paradoxical to want to create a character who doesn’t exist but who expresses my own ideas.”
So I made the decision to pose for myself. It’s easier on all aspects. For me as well as for the others. And I don’t have any image rights to get signed.
I also think that I had the need and/or desire to create a “fictional” character for myself. It’s paradoxical to want to create a character who doesn’t exist but who expresses my own ideas. He speaks for me, actually, you could say he’s my spokesman.
How are these self-portraits conceived?
There is no real process defined. Sometimes it’s enough for me to have an idea. I think it for some time. It evolves and I stage it through the shooting.
Sometimes, the title comes before the realization. Sometimes I just think of a final rendering, I do it and the name and/or explanation come later. It’s quite abstract, as with the rendering in short.
“[…] I want to stage a word or feeling.”
On the other hand, I sometimes “force” myself to make one. Example, I want to stage a word or feeling. So I turn it around and express it because it means a lot to me. I’m trying to shape it with a first idea. Which sometimes has nothing to do with the word. But some images come with it. So I deal with and modify (greatly sometimes) if necessary.
What part of the creative process do you like most?
I would say the research and design part. Because I need time to conceive. A few hours, even a few days. You have to get involved, bring an idea to life, that’s great. And it’s not that simple. It really allows me to immerse myself in the thing while having time to modify it if necessary. I shape all this
“It is important for me to search, touch and look at the material […]”
The final photo only takes 1 hour or 2, post-production and installation included, it’s not really the most exciting. So yes, I am very satisfied with the concrete realization. As well as the search for the materials with which I will design. It is important for me to search, touch and look at the material I can work with. I like the textures and what they can convey as information.
For this series, I guess you had to ask yourself questions to get the ideas. What have these images changed in your life, your vision of yourself?
I ask myself hundreds of questions every minute about my past, present, and future life. I’ve always wanted to analyze everything, to identify everything. The why of the how, the fact of always crushing your mind to want to understand everything. Sometimes it’s exhausting. And I easily admit that it’s not possible and that I’m spending a lot of energy in there, but I’m curing myself!
Let’s just say that these images have not changed anything in my life so far. But it is good to be able to express what you feel through something different than words. This allows me to materialize my thoughts with these images that allow me to make something abstract into something more concrete.
“[…] I surprise myself, other times I get tired of myself…”
For example, Resignation, I imagined it with an earthen pot overturned on my head. Why I don’t know, but it’s my way of imaging it. I had this feeling for a long time and one day I had this image, really precise for the moment, in my head. So I did it.
They revealed a creative side. And I like this slightly original side. Even if sometimes I wonder why I do things this way or that way. Sometimes I surprise myself, other times I get tired of myself… I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer by imagining crazy scenes. Now it allows me to do all this. These photos, therefore, made it possible to externalize this side.
Knowing yourself can take a lifetime. Do you think this series will ever end?
This series is quite old and I had to stop it for various reasons.
To be honest, I never thought it could be resumed. It was almost hidden, like a failure I didn’t want to hear about anymore. Then by chance, I was able to take it back, and ideas come to me. You could say it comes back to life.
“[…] it’s not possible to know yourself 100% […]”
Will I continue to express who I am through this series? I don’t know. I continue as long as the ideas come to me. If necessary, in X time, I will continue to know myself/reveal myself with other photos. That will express differently who I am. Or else it will go on standby to resume.
As you say, knowing yourself can be long, even impossible. I’m the kind of person who thinks it’s not possible to know yourself 100%, even over a lifetime. It would be a shame, wouldn’t it?
What would you advise photographers who would like to start a series in the long term?
It’s going to be cliché, but never let go of an idea. It doesn’t matter how others look at it and/or whether it’s difficult or not. Advisors are not the payers. You must not let yourself be affected by hurtful and negative things or things that could compromise a personal project. Now I tell myself that people who criticize without objectivity or who do so out of jealousy, are not interesting. We must avoid polluting our minds with these things. I’ve already been told that this series is pointless or even ridiculous. But I don’t care, at least I do something, I create according to my idea.
“[…] put your ego aside.”
I surround myself with positive people. I don’t have any more time to waste. Life is moving very fast, so everything should be going well.
Anyway, now we’re back to my presentation, but you get the idea!
However, we must realize that we cannot please everyone. And that constructive criticism is interesting and fulfilling. You have to accept it and sometimes put your ego aside. But it can sometimes feel good to get slapped, they often put ideas back in place. We take pictures, we don’t save lives. You have to keep your head on your shoulders and keep it swollen as little as possible.
Doing things your way to please yourself is important. And be aware of your abilities. Otherwise, it would be a failure and therefore a definite frustration. So measure well what can and cannot be achieved.
Do you have other projects in the pipeline?
Yes, a little too much so! I have started a lot of things and they are being refined on a daily basis. I’m a little bit of an idea-set aside and pick it up later. I don’t like to rush things too much so sometimes I drown in it. But I have enough to do for many more series.
“I want to test a lot of photographic styles.”
But I have enough to do for many more series.
I want to test a lot of photographic styles. I often envy some photographers who do things that are the opposite of what I can do. In fact, I would like to explore all aspects of photography.