Not many people are lucky enough to say they have experienced a vast variety of culture in over thirty countries worldwide, but UK born Tom Silcock can. Luckily Tom traveled the world with his beloved lens and the results are pretty special. Here’s what the founder of Tidy Images had to say when The Essential Journal recently caught up with him.
So first, tell us a bit about yourself and what got you into the world of photography?
I grew up in a small town just outside of Liverpool, all we have is a post office and a pub. I was always interested in anything to do with creative expression. When I reached college I asked to take business and photography, as I increasingly became obsessed with this form of art I also became tiresome of photographing ducks and canals. I took a spontaneous trip to Europe in the summer of 2008, this was my first excursion alone out of England at the age of 17. You know a real dirt bag kind of trip, sleeping on pavements, hitch hiking, waiting for people to leave left overs on restaurant tables for a small meal, but this trip opened my eyes. I quickly ran out of what money I had made a few weeks previous from a job taking up carpets in a block of offices not far from my home, so I returned in time for our first year of college results. Whilst many where excited to receive their past year grades I had but one purpose for returning to college that day: I was to drop out and begin work on a building site to save money and leave my home to explore the world with my camera.
After 5 years of working many kinds of derogatory jobs to fund my passion for travel photography. I became bored of the struggle. Travel is actually a few epic bits amongst a load of really crappy bits, but the epic parts far out- weigh the bad times. I wanted to return home and find a way to turn what I love into a career and bring to life a few dreams thought up along my travels. Four years on has led me to owning a small media production company called Tidy Images and co-founding a sustainable travel company called Gone West, both are still in their early stages but with great people around me in both businesses, I know that with eternal optimising and sheer determination they will both one day become products of success.
You have a rather impressive portfolio of places you have visited around the world. How many countries have you visited and what has been your most memorable to date?
I have been to 33 countries, although I realised the more I travelled that it’s better to spend more time in one country rather than trying to globe trot the world in a single year. You cant say you have travelled through a country until you have worked there or at least hung out with the locals.
My most memorable place… hmmm that’s so hard to say, but if I had to choose, India turned my world upside down, or should I say the right way up. I was only 19 when I went and went alone. This adventure was as magical as it was frightening and I recommend that everyone should visit this place one day on a solo trip…It will change your life, that is a promise!
You shoot on a Cannon 5D but have most recently purchased a Red Camera for shooting video. What influenced the diversification into the Videography industry?
I always wanted to be one of these people you see in the papers and now on Instagram being paid to travel the world for NatGeo etc just documenting, however reality hit a few years into my love affair with this trade and I realised that dream is an unlikely one. When I returned home for the first time in years I could not find a job anywhere. Fortunately a camera I had upgraded to the year before, which was a 7D meant I could film video, so I decided to teach myself how to film. I blagged to local event promoters that I could provide promotional videos for their techno events and quickly found a way to earn a very small living from this. As time went on video production combined with photography became my primary source of income, by relentlessly building my portfolio and working for enough to get by, I was soon head hunted to start filming for Red Bull, this is when the world of finance revealed itself and I was able to invest in professional equipment and thus my career began to move forward.
Talk us through your chosen equipment.
I shoot on a 5D Mark 3 for photo and timelaps and A RED Scarlet for video. I have a drone too but I crashed it into a tree!
From your extensive world travels, what has been your most memorable place to shoot and why?
There are two, California! There is the craziest afternoon and morning light, it’s like for just one hour either end of each day, heaven just releases a golden glow of total tranquillity. This golden hour is something I have not seen any- where else in the world.
The second is Lofoten, a chain of baron islands in the arctic circle. In the summer you have a 12 hour sunrise and sunset mashed into one – just imagine this for a second. The sun does not go down, it just kisses the horizon, so you have 12 hours of the most insane colour. It also means you can surf or hike in the middle of the night!
You are co-founder of another exciting project, Gone West. Tell us a bit about this.
Gone West is something really special. I started it with a friend 8 years ago now and we have an amazing family of over 50 people around the world involved. It has never been easy to explain what this project is about in a sentence but we are a social enterprise, this means a percentage of our sales each goes directly to social and environmental benefits. Our first product is a sustainable booking tool launching this summer. Our initial focus is creative documentation and the endless task of global reforestation. Hopefully one day it will become a community of like minded people from around the world where we can together make a difference. I don’t want to give to much away but it’s worth keeping an eye on, especially in March when our crowd funding campaign is released –www.gonewest.com
To someone who hasn’t done much travelling but is looking at doing so, what advice could you give them?
You need a bit of money, fact! Some travellers out there will say “ just living off good vibes bro” which translates too I’m a moocher and take advantage of the kindness of people, so get enough to get the ball rolling! Next is confidence, it’s not easy to leave your family and friends behind, you will find yourself in extreme situations of depression and distress, totally alone and scared at times, sleeping in weird places even possibly begging for food that’s for sure. By travelling you will experience the kindness of the world also, you will see what its like to live in other peoples shoes, this results in acquiring a few special qualities, I’m not saying you have to travel to learn these, but by travelling you will learn not to judge or discriminate, you will enable the ability to relate and associate with people from many walks of life which can come in handy. EJ