Columbus based photographer Tom Hoying recently reached out to us, we really like what he is doing and check out our interview with him below to get a better idea of his work process and what he is all about.
Empty Stretch: Age/ Location/ 3 favorite things in life?
Tom Hoying: 22 years / Columbus, OH / art, my bicycle, and the people I’m closest to.
ES: How did you get into photography? Do you have a favorite camera or set up at the moment?
TH: I suppose I’ve always been taking pictures but I started really pursuing photo seriously when I was 16 or 17. In the past I’ve shot film exclusively, but I’m starting to transition into mixing digital and film into one workflow. So I’d say I’d split that question between my Mamiya 6, and a 5D.
ES: A fair amount of of your work seems based around American identity and aspirations of retaining or rejecting the concept of the “American Dream.” What about this theme interests you? Did your own upbringing influence you to tackle this subject matter?
TH: A lot of the areas that appear in I almost drowned in the Blue River I visited often when I was growing up. Some of the portraits are of family members as well. These details remain absent from my statement however, because I want the viewer to be able to connect to the work on their own, using their own individual experience and understanding of America. The “American Dream” isn’t a clearly definable concept and means a lot of different things to different people. Part of the motivation for making the images was the shift I saw in the attitudes of those close to me, and seeing my relatives in and out of work. I think the shift I observed also had a lot to do with my own coming of age, and having the haze of childhood idealization lifted. I knew I wanted the images to reflect my respect for the people and the land, but to also be honest and attempt to show some of the economic realities of the area.
ES: The body of work “I almost drowned in the Blue River” seems to play out as a eulogy for the “American Dream.” Could you talk about your work and thought process behind this series? If a viewer was to take one thing away from this series, what would you hope that would be?
TH: The “American Dream” is a constantly shifting undefinable concept based in opportunity, optimism, and the good will of the people around you. I think the core of my statement is that although the recession may have hit hard, these communities and people will step up and support one another. The jobs may have left, but the opportunity that the “American Dream” promises may not really be dead, it’s just constantly changing like anything in life. I was standing in the gallery with my prints getting feedback from a few people about the work and they all remarked about how it reminded them of where they came from, or somewhere close to them. For me, being able to connect with the subjects and subject matter in an intimate way, and then in turn sharing that experience with viewers who are able to connect and relate to the images in to their own way is why I make photographs.
ES: Do you consider your work a critique on American identity / the “American Dream” or merely a documentation of a time within America? Why?
TH: A lot of the images bear a specific nostalgic gaze, while many remain attached to the present. The work certainly isn’t a critique of American Identity, but rather an attempt to assert that American Identity, like the “American Dream”, is isn’t clearly definable and welcomes interpretation from the viewer.
ES: Who, photographically and non-photographically, has influenced you lately?
TH: I recently visited Cleveland for an opening of Christian Patterson’s work Redheaded Peckerwood. Seeing the work in person and hearing Christian talk about all of the time, planning, and research that went into his work really impacted me. The amount of care and connection Christian has with his subject matter is really inspiring.
ES: If you could travel to any planet, which one and who would you bring?
TH: I’d travel to Mars and bring my closest friends, a camera, some sunscreen, and grill. Who wouldn’t want to have a block party on mars?