Photography by T. L. "Tom" Cubbage II

This explains Tom's vision and voice as a photographer

Tom's Photographic Style and Vision

In 1996, at the end of my second summer as a student at the Santa Fe Workshops, I sensed the need to define in writing my understanding of my personal photographic style and vision.

I believe that there is a direct connection between the spiritual path I am on and the work I am doing as a photographic artist. I believe that how I have developed my style has at its core capturing the life lessons, pains, disappointments, successes and joys that mature my subjects. I am really looking for essence of the subject's life experiences. By getting to know my subjects as people, rather than as a photo prop, I bring into focus with the camera the transcendent spiritual wisdom and grace they have attained through their life choices and attitudes.

I don't see my style as being ethereal; rather, I strive for photographs that clearly reveal the subject's personal moments, and try to do so with a high level of personal integrity. I hope that from my work the viewer will understand both my soul as the photographer and the soul of the subject.

I am looking for the beauty and strength that is within the subject. I see my style as "uplifting"; showing the triumph of the human spirit over the burden of the subject's necessary, and often painful human learning experiences.

There is in my style a distinct voyeuristic element, for I try to capture the personal and private moments of the subject. For this to happen, I literally must know something about my subject. I am not able to simply take a model—like a mannequin—and pose them abstractly. I need to be able to find something of the subject's real being, and with the click of the shutter I try to record a special moment in time for them as they really are. I am looking for an intimate and quiet moment in which the model reveals and I, in turn, capture their private thoughts and mood. To be able to do this asks a lot of a model, but as we develop a rapport they are willing to join me in what must, of necessity, be a collaborative effort.

It is as if, when I am working with a model, she is singing the Carly Simon's song: "Take me as I am; for the woman that I am." Yes, that is the person that I am looking for in my pictures—the real woman who is before me. And I am trying to record and glorify her as she is, and in being what she is. I try to reflect them as they want to appear—which is not always as they see themselves. Many women are very insecure about their appearance, and what I do is capture their beauty in a way that even they cannot deny.

My pictures do not have to tell the subject's whole life story; in fact I try only to record a short story—one that is only partly told. In that way the person who is looking at the picture will see generally what is going on, and they, in turn, can then complete the story of the image for themselves out of their personal understanding of what the photograph reveals as they react to it on both an intellectual and emotional level.

What this understanding revealed to me is that photo exemplars (pictures I have collected over time) are fine guides to what is good photography, but they are poor guides for my use in posing a particular model. Using an exemplars may produce a pleasing photograph, but the pictures that result most often lack the brilliance that comes from the inner fire of the person who is modeling.

Mine is a quest for images that stir the imagination and emotions.

— Tom Cubbage, on reflection, January 1, 1997; rev. November 1997.

All images: Copyright 1997–2004 by T. L. "Tom" Cubbage II - All Rights Reserved

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This page was first published on 5/11/1997.

Updated 9/15/2004, at 23:00 hours CST, by Webmaster Tom Cubbage