Photographer Tom Wilkinson: turning self-isolation into dark bursts of creativity

Tom Wilkinson is a photographer based in Sydney who you’ve probably seen hanging just to the side of your favourite mosh. But recently he – alongside every other photographer in the music industry – has found himself forced into his home with nothing to shoot but himself.

As it turns out, self-isolation has proved a particularly creative period for Tom. He’s been shooting self portraits for the first time ever and sneaking outside to shoot an empty Sydney whenever he can, documenting and distilling the loneliness and anxiety being felt worldwide in stark black and white.

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All photos courtesy of Tom Wilkinson

Tom Wilkinson – normally a gig and beauty photographer – is turning his time spent in self-isolation into dark, stifling images that speak to a world shut down.

HAPPY: What changed in your world, initially, when everything began to lock down?

TOM: My income dried up completely, as my work depends on the live music industry and working with the people within it.

HAPPY: What kind of fallout have you been observing in the photographer community?

TOM: We’re all in the same boat pretty much, just doing what we can to get by.

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HAPPY: Have anyone’s initiatives really stood out to you?

TOM: I’ve been seeing a few photographers doing FaceTime shoots which is pretty impressive! Also, Mitch Lowe has started a collaboration with Pixel Perfect Lab called Our Prints which is helping creatives sell their work during this time.

HAPPY: Would you say being in isolation has been detrimental or beneficial to your creativity? As reductive as that may seem.

TOM: Both! I have days where I’ll have a bunch of ideas then periods of complete emptiness, which is ok.

HAPPY: Was moving to using yourself as a subject confronting? How so?

TOM: Yes and no, I’ve never been one to be in front of the camera but with everything going on it’s a case of necessity creates opportunity.

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HAPPY: Have you made any changes to the space you work in?

TOM: Well, the spaces I usually work in are venues or the streets so yeah, it’s been a big change switching to my living room!

HAPPY: A makeshift living room studio? Sounds fun, how did you pull that together?

TOM: That’s a pretty fancy way to put it haha, really I just turn off all the lights and stick a camera and a flash in my face and see what happens! That’s if I’m feeling creative that day. It’s getting tricky to think of outdoor concepts now that there’s a risk of being fined by the police, ideally I’d like to document all of this.

HAPPY: What do you think people in your field will have learnt, after this has all wrapped up?

TOM: I’m sure measures will be taken by the arts community to ensure public health within their spaces but for the most part the arts industries go above and beyond for the betterment of everyday life in this country, I feel that others in their respective fields have more to learn from this after it has all wrapped up.

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HAPPY: Yesterday I was told that a crisis brings out the best and worst in people. Do you agree?

TOM: Absolutely agree! There will always be kind and cruel, smart and selfish, all the various traits of being human but it’s always been that way and probably always will be unfortunately. You just need to take a step back every now and again and realise which side you want to be on.

HAPPY: Are there any ways myself or anyone else can support your peers? Beside the act of purchasing.

TOM: Aside from the act of purchasing? Maybe share their work with friends, send a message of encouragement, perhaps suggest a creative collaboration.

HAPPY: Is there anything you’d like to say to other photographers, while you have the stage?

TOM: HANG IN THERE! And try to keep producing content if you can, it helps not only keep yourself mentally strong but also the rest of us.


Check out more of Tom’s work on his Instagram.