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Posted 28.05.20

Photography alumnus Tom Oldham wins Sony World Photography Award

By Naomi Girdler

The winning image of Charles Thompson, aka Black Francis, Pixies' frontman and singer-songwriter

After graduating from a National Diploma in Photography at Plymouth College of Art in 1994, Tom Oldham has gone on to become one of London’s leading portrait photographers. This year, he was announced the winner of the Open Portrait Category at the Sony World Photography Awards 2020. 

Tom, a Hasselblad ambassador, shot the winning black and white image of Pixies’ frontman and singer-songwriter Charles Thompson, better known as Black Francis, on a Hasselblad H6D-100c. Originally featured in MOJO Magazine, Black Francis has been subjected to countless photoshoots over the course of his musical career, with Tom wanting to break that pattern. He asked the singer to acknowledge that frustration, resulting in the award-winning image of the singer burying his face in his hands.

Tom announced his win via Instagram, saying: “I’m really proud to have achieved this and shout out to all photographers keeping the faith in this moment when motivation and inspiration is really challenged - it’s worth pushing on and to keep on entering competitions like this one, which is free and a great outlet for your skills and projects. The whole experience has been nothing but positive for me and I wish that for you too.”

Tom specialises in portraiture photography, his portfolio including the likes of Tottenham Hotspurs manager Jose Mourinho and Olympic gold medal winner and world record breaker Usain Bolt to music sensations such as Brit-pop superstar Noel Gallagher and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.

"’s worth pushing on and to keep on entering competitions... [it's] a great outlet for your skills and projects."
- Tom Oldham, Plymouth College of Art alumnus

Tom also won the award in 2018 with his series ‘The Last of the Crooners’, a photo series documenting a host of characters from The Palm Tree, an East End pub maintaining the tradition of hosting three guest singers playing jazz standards every weekend for more than forty years.

Tom’s portraiture continues despite the lockdown with his latest series, the Two Metres Project. Working with Cathy Hutton, creative director and co-founder of creative agency Jolly Rebellion, the project aims to document how people are coping and adapting to lockdown. Talking to people they’ve seen while out and about during lockdown, the subjects are photographed by Tom in consideration of the social distancing guidelines, after which their stories are audio-recorded and transcribed by Cathy. These images are then displayed on large digital screens throughout London.

One of the images from Tom and Cathy's Two Metres Project

Tom said: “Mirroring on digital screens what was happening on the street and in open spaces was a real delight, and we remain ever grateful for the help we’ve had in displaying the work so that people could see themselves and feel celebrated. It’s brought joy to everyone involved and that should be the target of our efforts going forwards. I’m certainly going to try.”

You can keep up to date with the project on Tom’s Instagram.