For Thomas Brown, the connection with image-making came early. His father, a keen photographer and printer, turned their family bathroom into a darkroom. With plywood over the windows blocking out the light, they spent hours developing film and printing images in the bath. “There was something about photography that gripped me," recalls Brown, who is now an award-winning photographer and director. "The speed of the instant feedback loop, in which you can try something and determine what needs to be changed on the spot, is really satisfying."
After studying at Bournemouth University and assisting renowned photographer Dan Tobin Smith, Brown began making commercial and editorial work for Wallpaper, The Gourmand, i-D and COS. He established a name for himself in London and beyond by crafting intricate and experimental still-life imagery that combined graphic details, rich surface texture and a playful tension between the natural and constructed. His ability to forge familiar elements into something strange, beautiful and otherworldly set him apart from the slick, graphic trend dominating the industry at the time.
There was something about photography that gripped me.
"It was a journey for me to land my style," Brown tells Capture."I was coming out of the shadow of working for this great photographer, and I signed up with my agency when I was quite young. I realised I had to invest time in analysing my influences and reference points to discover the central tenants of my practice. As I did, themes emerged: I noticed textures and a wabi-sabi quality were important. It was also vital that the work be both research-based while also allowing space for serendipity. The accidents or things that occur naturally in front of the lens open up this whole explorative process. These are the things I constantly come back to."
An insistence to reimagine what still life is, and could be, is also a driving force in Brown’s work. In Pop Pop BANG, he collaborated with creative director Anna Burns to transform the humble umbrella into a sculptural spectacle inspired by the masculine appeal of B-movies. In a hybrid of film, photography and pyrotechnics, the duo abandoned the studio, the typical realm for still life work, and created three installations in quintessential English locations. Disarming in its scale and ingenuity, the project opened up new possibilities for the medium that refused to be categorised.