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BEN THOMAS

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Ben Thomas is an Australian photographer and visual artist focused on urban spaces. His "Cityshrinker" series (2007) was internationally acclaimed and considered to be one of the pioneering projects exploring the now popular tilt-shift technique. Ben's study of urban spaces continued with "Accession" (2012) utilizing mirror and kaleidoscopic techniques to highlight how repeating patterns and objects act as the basis of our urban surroundings. Most recently Ben has developed his latest series "Chroma" (2015) and "Chroma II (2016), a further deconstruction of cities and urban areas with a primary focus on the use of color and flatness that poses questions of how society defines the places in which we live. He deliberately “stripped out as much of the darker detail in the images as possible, to allow the vibrant color to control the image".

1. Please briefly tell us about you.

Im an artist mostly concentrating on the still image, based in Melbourne, Australia.  


2. Urban landscapes and their interaction with society are central themes in your work. What do you want your photographs to reflect about this dynamics? Is there a message you want to convey? How do your works achieve this?

My work aims to understand how both subtle and obvious these differences are from country to country and even city to city. Place design is often a historical reflection of a particular society but interestingly can be used as a compass to point society into a certain direction as well. The methods and techniques achieve this are a central theme to my work. 

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3. In a previous interview you mentioned that you started to think about photography around 2005. Do you regard yourself as a full time photographer now?

Not really, I like to be working on different things to keep sanity in check. I like the freedom that comes with not relying on any one particular gig to keep things moving. Right now I have a great balance.


4. In your series “Cityshrinker” you succeed in “miniaturizing” real cities. The results are fascinating and force viewers to rethink whether they looking at actual scenes or models. How did you come up with this concept? What are the main technical and visual ingredients to achieve this effect? Does this series have a special meaning for you? 

I was pretty early to the game as far as tilt shift 'miniaturisation' was concerned but certainly not the first. I had seen some work by Olivo Barbieri that I was fascinated by. The whole project started as a personal challenge to see how much further the technique could be pushed. It was a great series to start my photography career, I learnt a lot while being lucky enough to get some great exposure. It set me on the path I'm on now and will always hold a dear place. 

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5. We admire how your artworks based on street views. Can you tell us more about the series Chroma, Chroma II and Chroma III. Do you think Chroma IV could be a possibility? 

After spending a number of years working on Cityshrinker I felt as though I had said all that I could on the subject matter. I put down my camera for a year while I developed the concept of Chroma. It wasn’t only the narrative that I wanted to build but the entire shooting and post process from the ground up. Its been a magnificent subject to explore and yes, I feel like there is more to be done.  


6. Your use of textures, light and colour in these series stands out and is very distinctive. What is the effect that it achieves?

I have a very deliberate process for shooting these images, the weather conditions play a large role, sunny harsh light often feature. From there work through a treatment of the images that flatten/tonally adjust in a particular fashion to present what you see. 

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7. The Chroma series have their antithesis in Anti-Chroma. What are you looking for in this contrasting approach?

Thats right. I still consider Anti-Chroma to be more of a testing ground than a stand alone series in itself. I do however like the polarization of the two concepts. I expect to have more on this in the coming months. 


8. When you are out shooting—how much of it is instinctual versus planned?

It's a mix of the two. I still very much enjoy the process of walking out the door unsure of what I will come back with but time is not always available to do this, particularly as I am doing more commission work where timelines are tight. 

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9. Can you tell us what are the main challenges you have encountered in your photography journey?

Its really difficult to be a successful photographer in 2018. The market is moving quickly and the technology is moving even quicker (there was no instagram and  tilt shift settings on phones when I started as an example). I think being resilient and open to change are the best things to strive for to keep you moving forward. Persistence is key. 


10. Congratulations for being one of the winners of the Hasselblad Masters Award 2018.  Can you tell us about this experience and what opportunities you expect it will bring to you in the future?

Thank you! It's a really exciting time right now, its a huge honour to be associated with the awards. Right now I'm preparing a new body of work with Hasselblad which I will be shooting in the next couple of weeks as part of the Hasselblad Masters. The works will be released as part of the Hasselblad Masters book at Photokina in September 2018. 

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