I’ve been a fan of Tommy Clarke for some time now. Unlike most aerial photographers these days, Tommy is in the air, hanging out the side of a helicopter snapping away at the world below. His work has taken him across the globe, from Australia to the Mediterranean and here in the U.K.
Before we take a look at his latest work of Cornwall, let’s find out more about Tommy himself…
Hi Matt, I am from Bournemouth but live in London now and I am an aerial photographer, but I do it the old fashioned way!
Well career wise, I started out as a fashion photographer. It took me all over the world, but it wasn’t until work took me to Sydney that I started to turn my lens on to beaches and eventually the idea of shooting them from a new angle. I might add; this was before drones were on the scene and aerial photography was harder to find!
I wanted to be a physiotherapist, but a snowboarding accident meant I had to stop playing sport for a while so I decided to borrow a camera and started shooting sports matches I was missing. I really thrived off the postivie feedback from my friends, so I kept going I guess! I never studied photography, I chose Sport Science at University, I didn’t think being a photographer was a job I could realistically go for.
It started out as showing people views they hadn’t seen before. Especially of the famous Sydney beaches where I was based at the time. The wow factor I got from people looking at my images was amazing, it was like I was a kid again. Now that the aerial view is more common I really love showing people landscapes around the world that they can’t believe, be it salt ponds or deserts, the world is a beautiful place and I get a kick out of showing people that.
Well, I started doing this before drones were widely available really. If they had been out when I was starting out it may have been a different story! But now I find it all part of the process, being able to sit and hang out of the open door of the helicopter and view the world. I can be up there for hours scouring landscapes finding things to photograph. It is expensive to do, sure, but as people are buying my work as fine art it helps to create a bit more excitement in the backstory of the images.
I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of shooting beaches, maybe because I grew up with ‘Where’s Wally’ books, I love looking in to peoples’ lives from a distant. There’s always so much happiness on a beach so capturing that is probably my favourite.
I think Shark Bay in Western Australia might be my number one. It was a landscape like no other I’ve ever seen! I could have been flying over another planet at times.
I would genuinely have to say Cornwall was one of my favourite shoots ever. Having had every summer holiday there as a kid, I have such an affection for the area and getting to fly over the beaches I have surfed at all my life from Polzeath to Sennen, it was a magical experience for me.
The image I took over the south of France of all the boats bobbing over crystal clears waters might have to be. It became my first cover of Conde Nast Traveller and has sold really well in the limited editions as well.
It has always been the dream yes! The costs of exhibiting in London are so high, even being part of a collective art show can mount up well in to the thousands! Framing and printing, stand hire, hanging systems, promotional info etc can be so high, so having done that for a few years I realised that having my own space would be the dream, as those costs come down and you are able to invite clients along to see your work every day of the year! It is however a big risk, but I’m all about risks in this world, if you want to be more successful then you have to, you can’t sit back and expect new clients to just walk in the door!
Well I’ve just finished a collaboration with Marks and Spencer on a range of summer wear, with my images printed on boardshorts and t-shirts. But next are two books and my own gallery opening here in London.
Tommy, thank you for your time. It’s been great chatting to you and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of your Cornwall work and visiting your gallery in London.
Below images – Top left: Fistral Beach | Top right: Sennen Cove | Bottom: Polzeath