We managed to grab some time with Tom Oldham for a brief interview about his exciting upcoming exhibition, The Herder Boys of Lesotho:
Tom, could you tell us a little about a bit yourself and your background?
I’m a London-based portrait photographer. I have a rich experience in shooting the great and good from music and sporting arenas but do lots of personal projects alongside my commercial work.
How would you describe your photographic style and what inspires you to shoot?
Hmmm, you’re probably better qualified to describe my style than me, but just to help you along, you could include words like iconic, clean and crisp, powerful and of a premium quality. What inspires me to shoot? Apart from obvious things like having a mortgage and two children that seem intent on eating us out of house and home, the need to document every interesting face I see compels me to keep shooting. The drive to want to see and therefore hopefully understand more of the world is continual for me. The extent to which I love my job can’t be underestimated too, it’s given me everything – but please don’t worry – I’m permanently grateful for the perpetual opportunities I seem to attract.
The Herder Boys of Lesotho project, which you are exhibiting in June, is unlike your usual work. Could you give us some background details and inspiration for the project?
Well, it’s only unusual in that the subjects aren’t famous musicians, sportspeople or artists I think. These are people with the hardest lives imaginable and are genuine icons of Lesotho, so I feel they deserve the same levels of lighting and lensmanship that any celebrity or sportsperson might. Arguably, more so. I went to Lesotho in 2009, shooting a group of motorcyclists riding through the mountain kingdom for a wonderful NGO (Riders For Health) and whilst winding through the highest roads on what felt like the top of the world, I would see these blanket-wrapped herder boys tending to their animals. I grew up in the countryside and it really struck a chord with me, so I swore I’d return to shoot their portraits, as I just couldn’t shift the idea from my mind.
Do you have any hopes to develop this project further?
This kind of shooting is the most special work I will ever accomplish – I already know this. It means everything to me and there are so many more incredible stories to be told in every country in Africa. I would love to do this and only this for the rest of my career, so if your readers feel similarly inspired to help me achieve such fantasy, they can contact me through my website or twitter and together we can make this dream a reality. Sound good?
Metro Imaging has printed your work for this exhibition, could you tell us about your experience printing with us? Did you have set ideas about how you wanted your final prints to look, what paper, frames, size etc. prior to coming to us?
It’s a bit like the Hasselblad connection for me really – there’s real comfort in working with a team of people so dedicated on achieving a singular goal that is absolutely optimizing every aspect of the show’s capabilities. From initial discussions about marketing with Kate O’Neill to production with Courtney, framing options with Nick (an absolute don at his craft) and then the aesthetics of the print show itself with Steve – it’s a very rounded facility on offer. There’s this general assumption that the artist always knows what they want but what kind of idiot wouldn’t seek the counsel of this bunch? Their experience and expertise have brought much to the party I assure you – with more to come too.
You are a Hasselblad ambassador could you give us an idea what that entails?
I wanted to shoot Hasselblad, as they are the best, it’s that simple. I bought one and it improved my output immediately and quite dramatically. I started flowing them some work I was enjoying shooting and they posted it on their website – which was a life goal in itself. Then they asked if I would shoot the campaign to launch the new H6D, which I leapt at of course. Their only stipulation on the brief was the delivery date – I could shoot whatever I wanted for their global campaign. Imagine that!? This illustrates everything you need to know about them – Hasselblad are completely focused on photographers first and truly care about your experience. They’ve offered me incredible levels of support but it’s without compromise on my output. I just really respect what they’re trying to achieve with their new kit, I use it and know it’s the best in the world right now so who better to work with?
You worked closely with Metro’s Creative Director, Prof Steve Macleod on the layout and curation of this exhibition, how was this process for you? How was it for you having someone curate work, which, I imagine, is intensely personal to you?
Steve’s been really bloody useful actually. I had a tight edit of images I wanted for the final cut but he really saw a different something in them and we’ve played with the format quite a bit – much to the exhibition’s gain I feel. He’s helped hone them into a flow and format and given them a patience and a sense that will undoubtedly add hugely to the visitor experience – though you best judge the fruit of this for yourselves. Steve’s advice was invaluable, made more so by him being the busiest CD in the capital.
Will any of the prints be available to buy?
Oh yes. Very short editions will be available on 26th June from 11am. See link below.
For more information about Tom Oldham
To buy limited edition prints
White Space, 5 Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7HY
Exhibition dates: 26th June – 1st July 2017
Opening times: 11:00am – 7:00pm daily
Images © Tom Oldham 2016