• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Man about Town: photographer Tom Cairns on hashtags, artificial light and working in sales

I caught up with photographer Tom Cairns as he prepares for the launch of his first exhibition. Tommy and I share a passion to spread the message to all young creatives out there that your best years lie ahead...

So, you're a well-travelled man. Tell us about your journey from corporate to creative

I guess the creative has always been hanging around in there. From back in the days when I used to do a lot of drawing with pencil or pen and always having a camera around when the mood took me, I guess it just needed a push.

Loading article content

I had a fantastic career in 'corporate' working as a sales guy in Enterprise Software and Consultancy, latterly at director level. Probably the most fun I had was with my time at Oracle. I was there just at the the inception of internet technology, the dot com bubble and all that. It was amazing to see so many revolutionary businesses come and go and to see the world become truly connected.

After 25 years of pretty much being away from home every other week, the spark slowly was dying and I needed a new challenge. The penny took quite a while to drop but when it did, there was no turning back. Having a business background, it was more the business of photography that interested me rather then the photography itself. I went on a four day course by Aspire, the A-Z of business photography. It fired me up that much that I came home and decided this was the right time. I did my sums, drafted a business plan and pretty much left work a few weeks later.

It took me at least a year to find the style of images that I wanted to produce and the 'markets' that I wanted to work in. I simply didn't want to be the same as everyone else, so it was key to have the right vision and philosophy about what I was doing and why I was doing it as my style developed, and it didn't stop here. Change is a wonderful thing if you are willing to embrace it. Every shoot for me has to be better than the last one, I'm always looking to try to add that something to what I'm trying to achieve which keeps me so motivated.

Jean-Paul Gaultier took a stance against ageism at Paris Fashion Week with a grey-haired punk on the catwalk. What was your reaction when you were recently signed as a model?

Kinda struggle with this a bit as I'm not a model. I do a lot of photography work for Superior Model Management in Glasgow and one day when I was in their offices, Isla commented on my 'new look' i.e. the beard and, not having anyone else on her books like me, she felt it would be good to have me on board. It's great fun to say that I'm on there and the little work I've had has been a hoot! I think what JPG did with the grey haired punk look was fantastic and age should never be a barrier to anything we do. However, I certainly don't see it as a career path for me.

You are attracting a strong global following across your social media networks. How has the hashtag helped you?

This goes back to my background as a sales guy. I know how to get myself out there and to promote my work. Social media is basically a free advertising/marketing tool and having an integrated social media strategy is so important to most businesses out there today. The vast majority of the work I do comes from my clients seeing my work on FB, Instagram, Twitter etc. It's important not to over promote yourself, people will get bored, but having a strong image/brand/product and keeping it sharp and on message, can drive so much work your way.

You are about to launch your first photographic exhibition An evening of Luminous Style. Tell us more about this and your penchant for natural light

Over the years I continually strive to master the art of creating images by merging the abundant natural light in our world with the light that exists within my subject.

Ambient light has a softness and an ability to almost caress a subject and make everything and anyone more beautiful. When I'm taking photographs, I'm seeking out the natural beauty in everything around me, the light, my subject, a natural emotion. I always strive to capture something authentic, and to me natural light innately possesses that quality.

It envelopes the subject, allowing their natural beauty to emerge as opposed to bringing the much harsher qualities of artificial light into a shooting situation. When it comes to making beautiful images, I find it incredibly satisfying to use what is already there.

Natural light offers an added benefit in that you are able to capture a scene as you see it, thereby preserving the overall feel of that moment in time. 

For me, regardless of how flash is used, it creates an "artificial" scene, one that only your camera can see when the flash is used as the main (brightest) light source.  Fill flash is less artificial because the flash is only being used to supplement the (brighter) natural lighting.  Flash creates lighting that does not exist except in that fraction of a second the exposure is taken, creating an 'artificial' environment that does not exist to observers of the original scene.

In my opinion, the use of natural, ambient, available light produces a quality of image that 'artificial' light simply cannot produce.

As someone who's taken the leap from the 9 to 5, what message do you have for aspiring creatives?

When you have a passion for something you have to follow it and have no reservations or regrets, but what a difference it can make to you and others.

There are the practical things in life that we just have to do, so I appreciate that not everyone can simply drop everything and go out and 'do their thing'. But when you find that inner drive that compels your creative side to take over, you simply have to go with it. I earn a fraction of what I used to but it's not about that anymore. Producing something that gives you enormous, emotional pride and to see and feel the reaction from your clients, well that is worth so much more than cold hard cash...

Just do it!

An evening of Luminous Style exhibition will be launched in Glasgow on Friday 8th August, from 6-9.30pm at Minted, 7 King Street, G1 5QZ. All are welcome.

Additional Images: 

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

252606