by Patrick Ilagan . February 23rd, 2015
Going to a totally different place with a camera in hand is one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences as a photographer. In this edition of Featured Photographer, we got the chance to have a little chat with Thomas Wilson. Thomas is an Earth science teacher based in Malawi who enjoys photography, biking around the village and travelling.
Patrick: Hello Thomas! How are you and how’s the weather there in Malawi?
Thomas: Everything is going really great. The weather in Malawi is wet. It’s the middle of the hectic rainy season, but I actually enjoy it. All of the fields come to life this time of year.
P: What is it like to be an earth science teacher living, working and taking photos in Africa?
T: Teaching and living in Africa is one of the greatest things I’ve ever decided to do. I’m originally from Long Island, NY. I’ve spent most of my life on that Island with the exception of a few short semesters abroad. Being able to photograph my time in Africa has been a major part of why I’ve been enjoying myself so much here.
P: What do you do when you are not teaching or taking photographs?
T: I try to devote time each day for riding my bike around my village or going for runs through the local tobacco estates. I always look for something to bring me out of my house.
P: When did you get into photography and who/what inspired you to do it?
T: I started taking pictures when I first got to college. That was about 8 years ago. My brother and his close friends were the first people who really got me interested in photography.
P: Did you take up formal photography classes?
T: Never! I sometimes wish I had because I know almost nothing about post editing. I try to touch my photos as little as possible in fear of destroying them in Photoshop.
P: What camera do you use when taking photographs?
T: I love my 35mm Olympus mju ii. I have a Canon 7d and a 120mm Bronica ETRSi that are both really nice if I decide that I want to lug around something bigger. But I mainly use my Olympus- I’ve also been having a lot of fun shooting with my iphone.
P: Where do you draw inspiration?
T: My brother and my friends have been huge sources of inspiration. I also draw a lot from the places I travel to.
P: Are there artists or artworks close to your heart that have continually inspired you to pursue the craft?
T: Definitely. Maurice and Katia Krafft are on the top of my list. They’re a perfect example of earth scientists who devoted their lives to capturing earth’s processes. My friend Chris Maggio is another major creative influence of mine. His photography is like nothing else around, basically. The likes of Brian Finke, Thomas Prior, Pat Reynolds, Bryan Shutmaat, Derek Vincent, David Guttenfelder and Chris Hadfield are all photographers I admire a lot.
P: Would you ever consider doing photography as a full time career and why?
T: Being a paid photographer Isn’t something that I’ve been seeking out. I really enjoy it as a hobby and not as a job. My cameras are more like travel companions rather than tools to make money. Not to say that I would immediately turn down an offer to make some cash by shooting, but I can’t see myself making a career out of it.
P: You’ve been in Africa, Iceland, New Zealand, as well as Italy. If you were to go in one place as a photographer, where would you go and why?
T: I think it would be really awesome to travel to the Pharoe Islands. Iceland gave me a taste of Scandinavian culture and landscape, so it would be interesting to photograph a place in the North Atlantic which not many westerners get the chance to see. Plus, the scenery there looks completely unreal.
P: I am very much interested with your Vehicle for Creativity set, can you tell us more about it?
T: Yes! It was basically the first thing I shot when I moved to Malawi. I love the way that the bike taxi drivers paint decorations on their bikes. It’s rare to see Malawians create art that isn’t directed at tourists. I admire that about the bike taxis. Their decorations and fancy bike license plates also seem functional to me. The more attractive the bike- the more business they’ll have. It was fun talking to those guys.
P: During your first time in Malawi was there ever a time you had the “jitters” when asking the locals to pose and have their photos taken?
T: Not really. Malawians are really friendly. They love to have their pictures taken and most of the time they never ask see the results.
P: What is the one memorable photograph that you have taken and what is the story behind it?
T: I took a picture when I was in New Zealand of a steel ladder connected to a heavily vegetated mountainside. It’s memorable to me because it was during one of the wildest hikes I’ve ever taken. Going down that slippery ladder with a 35lb bag was really sketchy.
P: If your present self meets up with your past self what photography advice would you say to your past self?
T: Don’t go anywhere without a camera.
If you want to see more of Thomas’ photographs you can go to his Tumblr, Flickr and website.