Clearly inspired by people and communities, Tom Ferrie’s photographs encapsulate the essence of a moment, whether it’s an older woman squinting as she casually and somewhat defiantly draws on her cigarette in the afternoon sun or the distant gaze of an army veteran, these portraits tell a story of daily life.
Paying meticulous attention to the relationship between the subject and their environment, Ferrie’s photographs are imbued with a captivating and searing sense of honesty, resulting in wonderfully evocative and mesmerizing images.
This year Ferrie visited Bogotá, Cartagena, Medellín and Guatape capturing the vibrant colours of the cityscapes, street art and personalities of Colombia. Murals and graffiti feature prominently, serving as readymade backdrops for portraits.
Yinka Akindele – How did you first get into Photography?
Tom Ferrie – Most of my family are creative; my granddad was an architect and painter, my mother ran an arts charity and my dad is a talented photographer. I studied photography at Wolverhampton University and was in my element in the Black Country, where the factories, car parks and graffiti became a focus for my early cityscapes and close ups. In recent years I have been fortunate enough to combine my two passions – photography and travel – and now try to do put on a solo show with work from each of my big trips.
Tell me about your current travel photography exhibition ‘Colombia – Bogota and Beyond’
This series of work comes from a one-month trip to Colombia in February this year. I remember arriving in the Old Town La Candelaria in Bogota very early in the morning and venturing out alone with my camera in the near deserted streets. I was awestruck by the neighbourhood’s vibrantly coloured graffiti murals, which found a harmony with the old colonial buildings. As well as photographing the cityscapes, I took a range of portraits of Colombian people I met on my travels, often against the canvas of these visually striking backdrops.
Which Country has been your favourite to photograph so far and why?
I’ve been to India a few times and it’s a personal favourite. Visiting Varanasi at dawn was like travelling back in time. I caught a boat along the Ganges rivers, where women bathed and washed their saris, children dived in unperturbed by the polluted water, men washed their buffalos’ backs and families cremated their beloved ones on stacks of scented wood by the river bank. The morning sunrise, mist and smoke from the cremations created an atmosphere like nothing I have ever seen; it was a real challenge to capture this diverse scene in photos.
What makes a good travel photograph?
If it’s a portrait I think that the relationship between shooter and subject is important. Eye contact is crucial, so if they look disinterested or ill at ease, then you have lost the picture entirely. Originality and taking chances is key to getting that standout shot. For example, if visiting a famous landmark like the Eiffel tower, rather than replicating the usual composition, it’s better to include tourists or street vendors to make people think about that relationship. If I’m photographing a billboard or a mural, I’ll often wait for someone with the right look to enter the shot for added effect.
‘Colombia – Bogata and Beyond’ – a photography exhibition by Tom Ferrie at The Shop, 75 Chamberlayne Road, London NW10 3ND. Private view: 3rd December 6-9pm, exhibition runs until 2nd January 2016. www.tomferrie.com