Tom Bunning is a London-based photographer who specializes in music, fashion and portraiture. His range of subjects keeps Tom at the forefront of what’s new, what’s fresh and what matters. Tom regularly shoots for Nike and Levi’s, and shoots backstage at London fashion Week for TONI&GUY. He also serves as the portrait project photographer for the Homeless FA (Football Association), England’s national homeless football charity.
Could you describe your photographic style/approach for those that might not be familiar with your work?
Well, I’d like to think ‘honest’. I’m shooting more and more portraits at the moment, which is where I’ve been trying to steer the direction of the work now for the past two years. I try my hardest to walk away with that one frame that I feel captures the character of the subject.
What are your favourite projects/collaborations you’ve worked on to date (especially any work you’ve done with brands/commercial briefs)?
I shoot backstage at London Fashion Week and London Collections: Men for TONI&GUY UK and always love the results I come away with. The past few seasons I’ve shot backstage with more of a portraiture approach, which works well, despite the extreme time pressure. You have maybe two or three seconds with each model to shoot each look before they hit the runway and although the primary goal is to fulfill the clients brief, it’s a great opportunity for portfolio work. I had a similarly high-pressure shoot two summers ago happened when I had time for 3 frames with Mo Farah the day after he won his gold medals. One of the frames went on to be the cover of his autobiography.
Who would you love to work with? (other creatives, publishers, and/or brands)
I’m really in to the world of British craftworkers at the moment and have just embarked on a project to capture portraits of our country’s producers at work. It’s fascinating seeing how they approach their individual craft and create their special product. I’m a sucker for nicely designed independent magazines and would love to work for a few more of those. A new favourite is Hole & Corner, the look and approach of their features is right up my street and it would be great to shoot for them.
Who or what has influenced your work most?
It could be anything, or anyone really. If I see something I like, I will try to apply it to a shoot I think it will suit. London is especially saturated with talent and opportunity that you can’t help but be influenced by the biggest or smallest of things you come across. I spend hours trawling online, all of a sudden you come across a lighting style, composition or crop that sparks an idea that you can apply to your own work in a different way. However, I love the approach that Brian Duffy had to the art.
What for you makes photography so powerful?
I’ve never really been one for words and only in the last three or four years have I got into books. So image has always been more important to me. It’s incredible the emotion that one single image can evoke. Don MCullin is the top man for this. Our shelves feature a lot of his books.
Which brands/organisations do you think do ‘visual storytelling’ well and why?
I’m not sure about specific brands and organisations, as I think it comes down to the creative team behind each campaign.
What makes or breaks a photography brief?
I suppose it always comes down to the client. I have some great clients who are actually incredibly free when it comes to brief’s. I do a lot of work for Levi’s and they’re incredibly good with trust. They will point out the outlines of what they need but ultimately leave me to come back with my own interpretation or representation. It’s wonderful, slightly worrying at time because you always question yourself but it’s always nice when a client just leaves you to it because they like what you do. It’s also important to have clients who understands limitations and doesn’t expect or demand the impossible. I’ve had that more than a few times . . .
If you could learn how to do one new thing what would it be?
I come from a family of joiners, and have always appreciated wood work. So to have the skills to start with a pile of wood and end up with a chair would be lovely. One that my grandkids could one day sit upon, that would be nice.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a photographer?
Who the devil knows . . . I gave graphic design a go, I was terrible at that, I gave bartending a go but always preferred to eating the peanuts and drinking the pints rather than be serving them. That’s a very good question. I suppose I’ve never really thought about it because taking pictures for a living is what I always wanted to do. I never thought it was possible, but I’m very lucky it’s all worked out I suppose.
Any wise words to leave us with?
My grandfather has always said to me, ‘The best thing you can know, is to know nothing’.