Thomas Beck produces images rapidly in his playful photographic practice
Based in Dorset, Thomas’ series Construction in Progress sees him use discarded objects from his rural surroundings to create in-camera and digital sculptures.
- Ruby Boddington
- 20 March 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Dorset-based artist Thomas Beck started young. He was just 12 years old when he started taking photos on his family’s digital camera. “Like everyone else I photographed my surroundings and began to apply formalities I learnt in painting and drawing to the medium,” he says. However, it wasn’t until university that he would come to understand “the framework of the medium and the crossover it can have with other art forms,” a revelation which has greatly impacted on his fascinating practice as it stands today.
Thomas is a recent graduate of Arts University Bournemouth’s photography bachelor’s and describes his work as “cooking with the ingredients I have rather than spending a lot on a single recipe.” What this means is that he crates work based on what exists in his surroundings, using spontaneity and playfulness throughout his projects.
This approach is probably most evident in his series Construction in Progress, a project which initially introduced us to Thomas’ work. The work is the consequence of repeated experiments and interactions with found objects from Thomas’ rural surroundings. Utilising photography’s ability to isolate a moment in time, Thomas aims to “encourage the potential for re-imagining the familiar.”
“Construction in Progress came from a move from the photographic studio to the familiar place of my home,” Thomas tells us. “That was a big change for me as I had been using the studio over the past two years. I enjoyed the control of the environment, the experimentation and the effects of lighting but became frustrated with the isolation of the space. I wondered what would happen if I moved to a place that I knew like the back of my hand whilst maintaining that control.” By shooting at night and using a portable lighting kit, Thomas “not only maintained that control but completely changed my relationship to a familiar place.”
The particular materials that he chose to work with and which now feature throughout the series were found discarded around his rural home: oil rags, rope, metal sheeting, pipes, and wooden palettes. Aware of how, by removing these objects, he was disrupting the area, Thomas wanted to explore this notion further: “By using post-production, I began to misshape, add-to and expand the objects in the image.” The result is a series of unique and entirely captivating sculptures which exist both in-camera and in the digital realm.
Having discovered a new trope, Thomas then replicated the process, creating images that imitated the digitally-manipulated sculptures but which were straight photographs. “By mixing both digital and in-camera, I wondered why we have to question the factuality of each image? Why not imagine? I think there’s a childish enjoyment in that,” he elaborates.
This process of repetition is commonplace across Thomas’ unique practice which feels distinct due to its specific combination of sculpture, still life and digital manipulation. In fact, its photography’s ability to “produce and reproduce” which is one of the reasons he is so drawn to the medium. “Despite this often being seen as a problem in terms of image saturation, it can lead to the quick development of ideas and experimentation. With the constant change of technology, the visual outcomes are always being pushed in new exciting directions,” he outlines. It’s a refreshing approach akin to one taken by many fine artists who work on paper. One of Thomas’ projects is even called Mark Making, which seems a fitting description for the unique way in which this photographer toys with the medium.
Thomas also makes use of sequencing in his work, stacking and comparing images to create dialogues. “These can range visually and can be non-linear, but one photo can queue the interpretation of the other which is different for each viewer,” he remarks. “Photographs don’t really show their workings, but do show visual signs which can communicate a range of ideas. I’ve always found that fascinating.” With this in mind, we’re excited to see what Thomas does next as he continues to explore photography’s infinite abilities. Clearly, getting so many years on practice in on his family’s old camera has paid off.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.