By: Lauren Walters
Thom Rouse began his career in 1994. He now splits his time as a
portrait and commercial photographer. With two diverse sides to his career,
Thom has mastered the art of photography. In the following interview, he tells
us about himself as an artist.
What is your definition of "fine art"?
I wouldn't dare try to define art! My
thought is that if you have a personal experience with literature, music, a
painting or a photograph, then it must be art. We don't really need to define
it, agree on it, or consult a critic to decide what it means. If we have an
experience with it, positive or negative, I think it must be art.
Who are some of the artists who inspire you?
There are many artists who inspire me
and the list changes daily. Among those near the top of my list are Salvador
Dali, Gustave Klimt and Tintoretto. Among photographers, I'd include Steichen,
Julia Margaret Cameron, Gordon Parks and Irving Penn. As soon as I start a list,
I can think of 30 more I should have added.
Why do you teach classes for other
sounds trite, but I like to teach because I learn so much from it. It pushes me
to think and evaluate the things I think I know about my process and my craft.
While teaching, I often have some self-revelation about my own image making and
I always learn from other photographers, usually from the newest newbie in the
You've had over 50 images go Loan - what do
you enjoy most about photographic competitions?
reasons for entering competition have changed over time. When I started, I was
solely trying to make the judges happy and earn merits towards a degree. Once I
earned my degrees, I tried to make and enter images that I liked the most and were
unique to me. At that point, I stopped looking for what I thought would achieve
the highest scores. If we're not learning from competition, I see no reason to
compete. We all need to present our work and receive feedback; it's a part of our
ongoing creative process. No matter where we are in our careers, photographic competitions
guarantee to make us better image makers. The more we enter competition, the
more we have to work at stretching ourselves. It pushes us to take chances and
do work that advances our vision; not just entering images that will earn more
What makes photography such a versatile medium
great to be a photographer: a time when the medium has become more versatile
than ever! I started later in life at 40 years old, but the 20 year span of my
career has encompassed the transition from film to digital capture. As much as
I loved the traditional darkroom, I came alive with digital post production. During
that time it has become an entirely new medium that encompasses painting,
compositing and extensive possibilities for post-capture manipulation. The
technology has created endless opportunities, yet we have to remind ourselves
that we still create images with our eyes, hearts and minds. That's what makes
photography truly versatile.
Do you pursue any other creative endeavors?
I do not. I gave up music 30 plus years ago; although, I'm greatly inspired by
other media. I fantasize projects in other media, but I've never acted on it.
What is your favorite image you've captured?
have several favorites because they were influenced by very personal
experiences that captured, expressed and expanded those experiences. I think
the best and most impactful work is done when it's grounded in your personal
Who should take your class at Imaging USA?
I think that photographers in any genre
and at any experience level will find something of value in my program. I'll be
making the case for spending time on fine art and how fine art will translate into
added success in commercial and portrait work. Creating and displaying fine art
expands your reputation as an artist, and will contribute to both your image
making skills and to your bottom line.
What are the top 3 things people should take
away from your class?
1. Pursuing personal fine art will
keep you fresh, alive and vibrant as an image maker.
2. These days everyone is a
photographer - being recognized as an artist elevates your status and
recognition in the market.
3. Fine Art translates into skills and
styles that let you create work like no one else in your market.
Elvis, Johnny Cash, or Jack White?
is trick question that should be answered with "all of the above". I know that
Elvis and Johnny Cash have influenced nearly everyone that's followed, but my
first choice for listening right now would be Jack White!
must be a based on Nashville connections; otherwise I'd be voting "none of the
above" and writing in Miles Davis!
Come listen to Thom speak at Imaging USA in
Nashville, TN. He will conduct a course called "The Case for Fine Art" on February 1, 2015. Looking forward to
seeing you there!