Looking through Tommy Ton’s street photography is like a holiday window unveiling at Bergdorf’s during Christmas time; one photo speaks more than a thousand words and you are instantly introduced to the next it girl, next fashion trend, and next clothing purchase all within one instant. Yet he is the last person to claim the title “iconic.” If you’ve been the most talked-about and coveted street photographer of the past ten years, what else is there to call you?
With the “invention” of Instagram, almost everyone can call themselves a photographer yet there is something so unique about you that when you capture an image, people are immediately drawn to it. How would you define your style?
It’s always been spontaneous. I don’t ever seek out anything in particular and always try to keep an open eye. I love for my photos to always be joyous and to illustrate a love for fashion. There’s a sense of movement and detail I try to capture as well.
How important is communication and your connections in photography?
I think it’s always important to have some kind of connection to what you’re photographing. Regardless of what the subject is, that’s how you take a great image; having a connection to the subject. It’s like falling in love for the first time; it’s an indescribable feeling. You become fixated and try to capture that emotion in the best way possible.
Why are you particularly drawn to street photography? Or would you say you are equally interested in shooting at a studio or in a controllable environment?
I think it’s because it’s easier and everything is ready. You don’t have to worry about lighting and the idea of the outdoor elements being another facet to your photos which makes it more exciting. I also love the idea of including environmental elements and people in the background. It makes for more exciting images.
You somehow still set yourself apart as “an outsider” which is probably the reason why you continually capture original scenery. How are you so involved yet so set apart from the fashion world?
I think still living in Canada plays a huge part. Living and immersing yourself in your work too much doesn’t give you the boundaries and distance you need to feel inspired. When I started taking photos in the style that I did, it was because I was shy and an outsider. Now that I’m more recognizable, it’s harder to still maintain that sense of mystery. So that’s why I prefer to live in Canada and also not go to events and parties in addition to the fashion shows.
Who are some of your favorite subjects?
Catherine Baba, Hanne Gaby Odiele, Pernille Teisbaek, Ada Kokosar, Jenny Walton.
All I tell people is to not try too hard and if you try to get the attention of photographers, it isn’t always going to work. Being yourself and having no ego makes a subject more interesting.
Moda haftasında sokaklarda dolaşırken sizi fotoğraf çekmeye teşvik eden nedir? Sizin tarafınızdan fotoğraflanmak için yapılabilecek belli başlı numaralar var mı?
Moda haftasının kaosunu ve ne bekleyeceğini bilememenin sürprizini seviyorum. Bana en enteresan gelen ve gidip fotoğraf çekmek için motive eden de bu. Belli bir şehre gittiğinizde bir beklentiniz olur, bu yüzden bazıları için diğerlerine göre daha fazla heyecanlanırsınız. Aslında hiç bir numara yok. İnsanlara tek söylediğim aşırı çaba göstermemeleri ve eğer fotoğrafçıların dikkatini çekmeye çalışıyorlarsa, bunun her zaman işe yaramayacağıdır. Kendin gibi ve egosuz olmak bir modeli daha enteresan kılıyor.
I’ve watched you in awe during Paris fashion week a couple of times. You tend to stay extremely calm and collected while a flash frenzy takes place, then you shoot. Is there an ideal timing for you to take pictures during these chaotic events?
There’s never really an ideal time. You just have to always be prepared in the moment to capture whatever may catch your eye.
Now that I’m more recognizable, it’s harder to still maintain that sense of mystery.
Last year you launched your website. How is it different than shooting for other companies such as Style.com or GQ?
There’s definitely a lot less pressure and stress not worrying about delivering images to a certain audience. I always felt I had to try and outdo myself and that made it hard at times. Curating a group of images everyday during fashion month proved to be very difficult at times but it was a challenge I loved taking on. The freedom and flexibility I have now with shooting for my website has inspired me and opened many doors to working with the brands and designers I look up to.
When do you do your most creative work?
When the images I’m taking are meant for my own pleasure and to share with anyone I want.
What were your first photographs of?
Usually I’m really really good at remembering these things but I think I’ve taken hundreds of thousands of photos that I’ve already blocked out of my memory.
What will your last picture be?
I don’t think I would know exactly what my last picture would be because I always take more photos than I should. Perhaps it would be of something or someone truly fascinating that I was completely infatuated with.