Great to have you with us Tom. We appreciate you taking some time out to talk about what is happening in your world – which I imagine is keeping you very busy.
Hey Marc, thanks for your kind words and for taking an interest in my project. Michaels have been a fantastic help, I am so thankful for your support.
So tell us when your passion for photography developed? Was it something you were around growing up or was there some experience you had which produced a kind of moment of 'knowing.'
My passion for photography is difficult to pinpoint. It certainly wasn’t a moment of knowing. My motivations for picking up the camera are constantly changing and evolving.
I have always been a visual person and as a result, art has always been a part of my life. Both my parents love their art and my mother gave me a great introduction to the subject. She encouraged me at a young age to develop my own work; she also exposed me to the work of many other artists.
At school I was a terrible student. As far back as I can remember I struggled with most subjects. Art and sport were the only things that held my interest. In year 11 & 12 I took up a photography class and fell in love with the traditional process. There is something special about old cameras, film and hand developing that I still find captivating. After I finished high school I enrolled in a three-year photography course. Back then I was desperate to become a successful commercial photographer.
I now find myself with very different motives; my skills have matured and I have different values. I am no longer satisfied with creating beautiful images; I wanted my work to amount to more. Only after I started ‘Photo For Freedom’ did my photography and life goals find the same direction. I couldn’t be happier with where I am as a photographer.
Tell us a little about what you do in the photographic community?
My role in the photographic community is not a huge priority for me. I do however have a great network of photographer friends who are a never-ending source of inspiration. My main purpose these days is to connect and move people from all walks of life regarding the topic of modern day slavery and if these people are in the photographic community that’s a bonus. Recently I have entered many competitions and grants; as a result I have recently become more active within the community.
The Photo For Freedom project, which you are spearheading, sounds like a fantastic initiative - Can you give our readers an overview?
Photo For Freedom is a long term awareness campaign and fundraiser focused on modern day slavery. Although slavery is a topic commonly viewed as a tragic past, it’s a bigger problem now then ever before. There is an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today, more than any other time in human history.
Through the exhibition, book publication, blog, and social media channels I hope to reach, connect and inspire people to raise funds and awareness and play my part in abolishing slavery. Volta is the inaugural Photo For Freedom project.
Photo For Freedom-Volta is designed to focus attention on child slavery in the African country of Ghana. I have been conducting an ongoing photographic study of daily life and work around the remote Lake Volta region where children as young as three years old are sold by their families to work in the fishing communities. This form of child labour is modern day slavery. Working as bonded labourers, these children are forced to work up to 14 hours a day either on the lake or as domestic servants.
The children live in deplorable conditions, are barely fed and are subject to both physical and physiological abuse. They are outcasts in the fishing communities and have no access to education. As a result of such conditions, these children are highly traumatised and often suffer from stunted growth and water-borne illnesses from lake parasites.
In 2012 my images will be displayed during a photographic exhibition housed at the Y Generation Against Poverty (YGAP) headquarters in central St Kilda. Through sale of Photographic prints and the Photo For Freedom book we plan to raise public awareness of child slavery and funds to contribute to the anti-trafficking work in Ghana. YGAP will use the proceeds from this project to continue combating child slavery in Ghana.
My project partner, YGAP, is a non-for-profit volunteer organisation aiming to create tangible social change, both locally and abroad. Our primary purpose is to empower communities disadvantaged by poverty to be self-sustainable. To achieve this, YGAP aims to inspire volunteers through innovative and creative fundraising projects like ‘Photo For Freedom.’