My life is about to change


It’s been awhile since I’ve used this blog and a lot has changed since my last post in April 2016.  I’ve decided to learn more about photography and will be joining the creative teams at De Montfort University in October.  Since finishing photography courses at college (2 years ago) there has been a gap, I feel the need to learn more and in a structured way.  As I learn, I’ll be sharing ideas and projects here, at TJRFoto and formally at my website.

I enjoy reading about photography & taking photographs because of their ability to communicate ideas, stories & emotions without conversation or spoken language. I find it necessary to photograph because I enjoy the process & satisfaction that I am creating something unique with meaning which can last.  For example, I searched for additional meaning in my own work. Charles Grogg has said that damaging or altering his photographs bring his attention to them once again” (Regrowth: 2012).

In his images, he manipulates printed photographs adding connotations to his original work. In “Road to Nowhere“, I damaged a set of photos & reshot the results. Both projects talk about changes & opportunities we face & the piece encourages me to develop myself.

My work is personal & expressive (and sometimes I’m screaming). I like to work on topics, which have deeper meaning.

For “Here I Am“, you are invited into comfort zones. As I saw the public respond to these images when they were exhibited in 2014, I found myself in agreement that photography encourages voyeurism. I will ask people why they like photographs & some cannot answer the question, yet there they are, looking at Photographs.

My work: “Self Harm” divides an individual into two separate selves; The resulting domestic violence photographs show that self-harm is real harm and aggression, there is a victim & a perpetrator. “The Pernicious Periodic” is a narrative of despair & the desire to change. It is a parody of Dash Snow in a bathtub filled with Polaroid photographs.

Photographs (stories) are being created in such a specific way, which persuades you into a similar way of thinking (or arguing) about the content. I enjoy the apparent permanence of Photography & when I read about its impact through history & in modern society, I am stimulated into creating my own work, that provides a platform to highlight subjects, which concern me.

I also enjoy photography to reflect on myself, some of my work is autobiographical.  Photography is interesting because it’s language is universal & speaks to people from all backgrounds & abilities. My favourite photographers change over time, however core examples are: Phillip Toledano, Richard Billingham, Robbert Mapplethorpe, Steven Klein, David Lachapelle and Wolfgang Tillmans.

Photographs have changed my perspective on the world, I am gladly surprised what hidden meanings can be found in them.


Find me online:

Left to our own devices

Technology has a capacity to make us feel isolated and lonely.  “Left to Our Own Devices”, is inspired by Banksy, who vandalised a youth club wall with a painting depicting two contemporary and smartly dressed individuals apparently embracing yet looking directly at their smart phones. (Banksy: 2004).  The image is familiar, it’s near identical both in colour, fashion and simulated lighting to Phillip Toledano’s image of a disenchanted couple staring anxiously at their devices for the May 2012 Atlantic article “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely”.  (Atlantic: 2012)

Tom Robson Left to our own devices 01


Left to our own devices takes online social isolation and places it in context with a photographic portrait.  In these photographs, the devices themselves isolate the subject with its ‘captivating bubble’ yet the photographer also is present.  In these photographs, we see a reality of human-machine interaction and a void, surrounding the subject.


Tom Robson Left to our own devices 02

Typical commercial portraits intend to flatter its subject whereas conceptual portraiture is designed to entice you into the story.  There is a certain composure, often ignored yet seen daily which has only surfaced within the past few years.  This is what Toledano and Banksy have suggested with the message of preference to digital interaction than that of personal.


Tom Robson Left to our own devices 03

It is interesting to see how people really look when they are ‘engaged’; they see not the device or the technology in their hand but their connections to friends combined with new and old strangers, motionless as expressions and body language cease.


Tom Robson Left to our own devices 04

Edvard Munch originally pencilled his artworks both vertically and horizontally providing the central character with the illusion of motion.  “The Scream” was painted in nature, underneath a blazing red sky placing it in fear of its surroundings or of desperation from isolation. (Prelinger: 2010)


Tom Robson Left to our own devices 05

Left to our own devices releases an inner scream, silent – kept still by the inaction of the subject while encapsulating them within its source of light to the exclusion of all else.


Tom Robson Left to our own devices 06

The stillness of the photographs is also a reference to the passing of time.  John Berger argues that original paintings (I infer photographs here) are silent and still in a sense that information never is.  (Berger: 1972).


Tom Robson Left to our own devices 07

We can remain static, fixed within the bubble.  Away from the physical, away from the vanity of outward appearance and existing behind a screen, true expressions secluded, sitting within a void.


Tom Robson Left to our own devices 08

This is our portrait for the duration of time online.  How we really appear on social media yet how we’re perceived to those around us, in our comfortable and social environments.  Portraits evolve and we no longer show our most flattering side to the photographer.  The tangible self is lost to what’s inside, a mental space that no longer requires our bodies.


Tom Robson Left to our own devices 09

The world will go on without us, in fact Jean Baudrillard has spoken when humans disappear, when reality is left behind, our bodies are merely a phantom limb. (Baudrillard: 2007).  Once the photographer has identified the subject, they have already disappeared and what is left behind is a malady of the self which is never projected online.


Tom Robson Left to our own devices 10

Tom Robson Left to our own devices 11

Tom Robson Left to our own devices 12

Obliviousness of users purchasing fruit and robots.
Yet unable keep to keep up the payments for their focus.
Enrolled into a clique and don’t know who the top dog is.
How low will we go, don’t you know it isn’t joy this brings?

Kids are taunting other kids for the fun of it.
They don’t use stance or wit, they just switch it on and put it in their fist.
They’re trying to get in the loop but can’t, and they are dismissed.
We condemn because we know, and we revel its killing them.

Why are so many people addicted? This shouldn’t have to be.
Is this us now, the human race, behaving naturally?
This is the information age, check the gauge,
We’ve got to upstage, while on-stage.

Living apart from friends, never making amends.
Eating each other alive just to survive the nine to five.
Every waking moment is on the screen, it’s routine.
Spending all our currency in front of us, a slot machine.

Trolling, complications and accusation.
Dividing our people, freedom of speech is in fluctuation.
We use it peace yet we contact the police.
We thought we got freedom, we thought emancipation.

Masses of sheep are together with hate.
Deceptions and indecision, no department of state.
The clock is ticking, but there is no ending,
But we will survive to see another day!

People being born today, already plugged in and afflicted.
Family roles and values are so conflicted.
Take out my battery or plug me in.
I’m busy on Twiter, this is my skin.

We’re disconnected from us, we’re hyper-connected to strangers.
Whatever happened to exchanging with your neighbours?
Disillusioned ourselves with the screen of pleasure!
And the damage that we’ve done will last forever.


There are people who are scared to become a photograph and there are others who are proud to become one. Those who are scared either don’t appreciate what a photograph can represent or have a sense of vanity they don’t fully understand.  There are others who wish to participate in a photograph with potential implications, such like the Yellow Backdrop campaign.

There’s something to be said about metadata, some view it as about about privacy, security and big brother collecting data which we all share in real time on social media and in private emails. We treat the subject openly, or naively exhorting ourselves from the subjection of photography.

Yet, simply posing for a photograph in this particular demonstration (regardless of political persuasion) can bring an arrest because the police are collecting surreptitious photos for later scrutiny and identity matching. – Analogue metadata?

The act of participating here is a harmless act of support, yet in Hong Kong it’s an act of courage and defiance.

Poisoned Paradise








Tears dripping with poison
gently corroding our minds.

Then you drink them
like it’s nectar
and the world becomes alive.

But our minds close
we collapse
and the ground embraces us.

We are left
in this strange town
called reality.

New Sketchbook

I’ve stopped writing about photography for a while and a birthday present has spurred me on to start up again.  The present was a book by Jürgen Teller, but that’s for another time.


My Sketchbooks from earlier courses.
My Sketchbooks from earlier courses.

It’s going to be much easier to write about photography because of the motivation, my next course starts soon (Level 3 in Photography).  My portfolio will change and I’m using the blog as a digital sketchbook, not just for original work, It’s easier to access than a paper book too 😉  So they’ll be short bursts from me alongside research links I’ve used, test shots, similar work etc..

In the last two years, I had an undeceive tendency toward my work and changed my mind several times before (sometimes during) the work & I’ve not been as busy as I’d like to be (see why here) so this year I’m avoiding that.  Three working titles so far are Music, Humiliation and Wake up to child abuse.

Music will combine praise/criticism for the #Selfie generation with abstract-portraiture and music with photography history.

Wake up to child abuse is a project I wanted to do a while ago (Pre Jimmy Savile) and after the child abuse cases over the past few years it won’t work because most people have already woken up to it.  It’s an important issue though and I’d like to do something conceptual with it.

Humiliation will be a fun project, but that’s a secret for now!



Photographers Interview

How would you describe your photography?
From “Rose Tinted”

I see things which other people perceive in the peripheral, things which have been discarded or overlooked.  I see beauty, in forgotten objects and enjoy photographing their decay and the environment where they are situated.  They are personal, expressive, they communicate, and they release a scream from inside.  One of the most important things with art photography is to highlight themes and ideals which people often struggle to talk about openly.

You’ve created various pieces of work, can you discuss the work and the motivation behind the images that you have made?

Over the past year, I have produced many photographs, the four core projects I’m most proud of are “Here I Am”, “Unicorn”, “…Broken” and “Semblance”.

Here I Am (II)

Here I Am, consists 10 individual portraits of the immediate environment of the person.  Here I Am, invites you into the comfort zone, a portrait of an activity.  It’s voyeuristic; you cease to wonder who the person is and instead ask, what are they doing?

Unicorn was a platform to demonstrate unity across boundaries, and to challenge boundaries during and after the project.  It worked, and caused disgrace and offence from both professional and social friends.  This became a platform to discuss controversial art and people still suggest I shouldn’t enjoy it.  Who are they to think that? (See Unicorn, behind the scenes)

Unicorn (V)
Unicorn (V)

…Broken became a metaphor for how I felt at a particular time, rather than demonstrate the difference in the way people see things which was its intention.  The project’s theme and title was in conflict until I felt something I wanted to photograph.  In these images I wanted to convey the sense of my own inner conflict, the sense that I am broken and this became the overarching theme for the final photographs.

Semblance began during …Broken, and is used to show clarity and openness, this is who we are, without our façade, this is the real us, our inner beauty and innocence which we have deep inside.  I had previously described Semblance as an anti-portrait, but it’s more than that.  It shows what we hide, and what we hide from, even when we’re hiding from ourselves.  Semblance, is us behind our mask. (See also: Semblance II & Semblance III & Semblance VI)

Which photographers and artists have influenced your work and why?

I enjoy photographs by Francesca Woodman because they, also are her inner screams.  She photographs herself, yet obscured.  Like she’s reminding you she is there, yet not present.  In Why hasn’t everything already disappeared, Jean Bulleriad explains that once we label, or photograph, or even recognise something, it beings to disappear.  Sophie Calle, on the other hand documents her life meticulously, storing items for many years.  InExquisite Pain, she returns to photographs and past treasures from 15 years earlier, at which time she couldn’t bear to look at again for fear of that pain returning, and so she couldn’t violate its presentation.

Space², Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978 1975-8 by Francesca Woodman 1958-1981
Space², Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978 by Francesca Woodman

My personal favourites remain to be Robert Mapplethorpe, Helen Chadwick, and Susan Sontag, all of whom demonstrate the link between personal freedom, photography as art and willingness to create from their unique view of how reality is superimposed into our subconscious.

Of my own work, Here I Am is a favourite because it’s what people talk about the most.  I enjoy listening to people talk about photographs because they each see different things.  Here I Am, invites questions and that’s one of the purposes of why I create photographs.

An equal favourite is “Metadata” which states that we are all stripped and reduced to an equation.  Something which needs to be processed, we disappear only to be replaced by a copy or perception.  At the time of writing,Metadata has gone unnoticed, unquestioned which is a statement in its self.

I do hope readers enjoy my photographs, thanks for reading.

The Chaos & The Calm

He discovered that his pictures could reveal not only the clarity bit the obscurity of things, and that these mysterious and evasive images could also, in their own terms, seem ordered and meaningful” – John Szarkowski – The Photographers Eye (1980)

Szarkowski argues that photography is the single most influential medium which has sculpted the way in which we see our world and that the practice of photography helps us to understand artistry outside its discipline.  In this quote above, @EstelleKeeber and I interpret that imagery can convey both meanings and ideas, from different people and experiences together.  In the same photograph.  We can see the obscure and clarity, the chaos and the calm.  As individuals who experience the chaos, it’s reliving to disconnect from the world, if only to recreate it in our own unique way.

The Wall

There are times when you just can’t do it. The inspiration which is screaming at you from different directions is blocked by an impenetrable, mental, wall. It’s crippling and prevents you from moving on. You might be having a bad day, week or month and want to travel beyond the wall but they are everywhere, a maze of impasse and deadlock with no escape.

So I say take that wall and smash it down, step away from what you do and cease to think about events which solidify its structure. Society is awash with people who face problems daily, monthly yearly and we all deal with problems and issues in different ways, we all have different ways of seeing and we overcome, social, intellectual, emotional and creative problems differently.

I was pondering the wall this morning as I walked to work with my camera in my hand. I decided, in the absence of the desire to take photographs, or write about photography, I would photograph the literal, the bounds between areas, the psychical walls which separate grass from asphalt, toward from away, left from right, dark from light.

Here’s the journey…