I had been educated in Contemporary Art History, Architecture, lndustrial Design and Graphic Design. However, my work in Chicago was in annual reports. I travelled the United States and photographed every type of lndustry, from rocket cones to slaughter houses. The work was interesting but when I started working in Italy I found a much more exciting environment, so I changed my base gradually to Milan.
In the middle of the eighties, I found myself in Milan, photographing kitchens for Michele De Lucchi. Design had been re-energized by Ettore Sottsass with the Memphis group, and was in a period of research and discovery. lndustrial design_was not the only area experiencing a new wave of manifestation. Music, fashion, architecture and graphics were also finding new languages of expression. ln industrial design there was a new emphasis on the expression of an object as more than form that follows function...
Shortely after I met Philippe Starck in New York. He knew the catalog I had made for City, a design store in Chicago, and immediately proposed some projects together in Paris. This led to a ten years collaboration as his personal photographer. In that period I met lngo Maurer and we began our collaboration which still endures today.
With these designers, each one different culturally and creatively, I began my search for a way to accompany the expressions they were producing. The object was theirs but the background was mine to create. I wanted to make an object in a picture rather than a picture of an object. lt should also have an identity or logos. I began with light experiments influenced by Man Ray, Moholy Nagy and the film noir movies I watched on TV as a boy. I made a conscious decision to allow naiveté and sub conscious memories to be my guide rather than polished, slick and clean photography. I used hard light and cinema lighting techniques as they revealed material and surface as well as shadow to create a graphic in the photo. I did not want to create a nostalgia but a new modernism. I began to design sets and installations that I often hand painted myself.
Over those years I worked with Ron Arad, Marc Newson, Massimo losa Ghini, Alessandro Mendini, Aldo Cibic, Antonio Citterio, among others. Ernst Garnperl came to me in the late nineties. He had seen my catalog for lngo's Mamonouchies and was interested in what I could do for his work. Art is a curiously photographed category. lt is always represented in a limbo atmosphere. This is an area I am interested today. The expression is there and a new accompaniment seems approriate too.
Things have changed from those years of Design re-awakening.
New technologies of manufacturing and visualizing design. But, of course, as a photographer, Digital Cameras and Photoshop are the process changers. Photoshop has enhanced and detracted from the perception of photography. Before it, photography was naively seen as a representation of a reality and so things that seem outside of reality but were seen in a photograph took on an air of magic. The photographer of such work was seen as a type of magician doing tricks that, even if you knew were not possible, made you ask how did they do that. Now we have one answer that fits all: Photoshop! Also before it, studio photography was a type of 'zen discipline', everything had to be prepared or engineered, with target concentration, for that one moment of the exposure. I can remember working on a set for one week and in a sixtieth of a second put it on film and then tearing it down in three hours.
That said, Photoshop and digital photography has empowered me with a new process to realize a new set of ideas and precision of lighting to render my subjects as I would want. The process however requires a collaboration in the post production aspect of the image. In fact it is often the more work intensive part of the process. The process of shooting has become photo light data collecting, to be reassembled or remixed later. My first digital professional work was in 2002 with HLZ for Design Plus. This was made possible by my then photo assistant Stefan Geisbauer. Without his help and prior digital experience I would not have felt the confidence to make the change to digital. Stefan has remained my technical partner all these years and I have to credit him as my technical legs without which I would not stand! He has since founded his own post production company, Redlight Design in Munich.
Tom Vack , 2013
Another of my liberations is my collaboration with Ester Pirotta on OPenEYe
, our website of available prints. It is a container of stories told through images that synthesize an aesthetic research, a personal idea of 'beauty'. Years of concentrating on focused solutions for commercial work had left me with a closed mind to alternative interpretations. I never carried a camera outside of the studio. I had my eyes opened but preferred to keep what I saw as subconscious memories. In 2007 we began to make pictures spontaneously from where we stood and what we saw in that moment. These pictures go back to the 'zen moment' of photography and the 'seeing' that is one of the great gifts and joys of this process. The other gift of photography is the ability to share our eyes and we offer on our website that gift to you and the encouragement to celebrate your eyes too.