Tom Medwell’s ultimate moments

17.04.12 Words by: Charlie Jones

Tom Medwell is a well known name in the London music scene, shooting bands and DJ’s we all know and love. He creates pace and movement in his portraits and live photographs, revealing the true nature of photography – a split second in time captured before everything changes. Tom’s super sharp eye for capturing the right moment has landed him jobs with some of the biggest names in music such as Katy B, Jim Jones, Professor Green and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and brands including Nike, Dazed and Confused and the Tate Modern amoung others. In particular Tom’s black and white live shots of punk shows and crowds remind me of Ed Arnaud’s photography; so animated, seemingly shooting the ultimate moment, the detail suspended mid motion.

Where do you live?
I’ve only ever lived in London. I grew up in Crouch End, a hotbed of frothy coffees and high-minded teenagers. It’s a nice place.

Did you study?
I’ve never studied photography. My stepfather was a professional photographer, as is my uncle, but they put me off it more than anything else. I started out trying to be a writer, and when that failed I got into taking pictures. I learnt by assisting two of the best photographers in the business, Mari Sarai and particularly Takashi Kamei, who was patient enough to teach me a lot.

Why photography?
I’ve had lots of answers to this over the years. I was given an old 35mm camera and hated taking pictures until I realised I’d been taking pictures every day for a year, all my money was going on it. At the time I still harboured dreams of being a writer but my ideals of photography at the time were the same as my ideals in writing – to capture the crux of a story in one moment or phrase. Now I find it hard to enjoy much performance without a camera in my hand – aside from music I shoot a lot of dance – and it has become something of a third eye to me. Also it is a great lifestyle, and I think everyone likes it when they find something they’re good at.

What has been your favourite photo shoot?
In terms of music photography, live would probably have been The Bronx in Shoreditch a few years back – there was a security barrier in front of the stage, and the security guys let most of the photographers in there. I hung back. Within 30 seconds of the band coming on stage the security barrier had been flattened and practically the entire crowd was a mosh. It was as live music should be. In terms of more set-up, it varies on how it’s being done. Last year I did a memorable shoot with We Have Band – they were all really lovely, and invited me out to a little estate house in the country for the day to shoot them.

Medium of choice?
I shoot digital because I have a digital camera (Canon 5DmkII). It makes life easier. I wish I at least had the option to shoot film or other formats, but practically, it’s very difficult to justify the extra time and money to clients.

What music are you listening to at the moment?
I don’t listen to music as obsessively as I did before I started shooting live music; shooting completely changed the experience of being a fan of music for me, so that what I love to see on stage is completely different to what I plug into my ears. I think the last two albums I listened to from start to finish were Leviathan by Mastodon and La Scala by Keith Jarrett. I’d love to see those guys play live.

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