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Posted 24.04.14

Introducing Tom Coghill

Tom Coghill

Third year BA (Hons) Photography student Tom Coghill talks us through his impressive past work, life at the college, and some very exciting forthcoming projects.

What do you like about photography?
I've always loved being able to read the visual language of a photograph. It’s great to be able to look at a set of images and understand the story coming from it - that's exactly what I want to do in my own work.

Growing up I was influenced by the photographer W Eugene Smith. He was probably my first inspiration in documentary photography.

Your photography has taken you to some interesting places. You documented the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) championships in Plymouth recently. How did that happen?
The gym near my house, Taurus Gym, specialises in mixed martial arts fighting. I'd always see them walking into town. They grabbed my interest.

MMA isn't hugely recognised in England, so I wanted to raise awareness of subculture. I spent the next four months just following them. At first they were a bit weary of me, but over time we bonded. They’re fighters, but they are all very nice people.

So your next project, I hear on the grapevine, has had the influence and involvement of a Mr Robin Maddock. Tell me about this project.
I decided to take portraits of people at Shekinah’s resolve after hearing about their work from a friend. Shekinah help to rehabilitate people with substance abuse, homelessness, and poverty issues. They do so much to help people.

"I will always remember Plymouth College of Art as the beginning of me, the beginning of my career, and the beginning of my passion."

One thing that the people there particularly said to me was that they were afraid of judgement. They are judged from their past. And the reason they have gone through this entire process is to move on, so they question why people look at them, judge them, and can't move on as they have. That's basically what my project slowly turned into and that's what I tried to communicate through my work.

So how did Robin Maddock get involved?
He was a visiting lecturer at the college. He gave us all a critical review of our work. As he was reviewing my work he kept continually complimenting it and, as he was giving me feedback, he suddenly said 'I want to help you make a book out of this'. So I was like "brilliant, yes, brilliant."

"I've always loved being able to read the visual language of a photograph."

It's actually quite spooky because at the beginning of this year he became an inspiration towards my work - to develop more confidence to talk to people. I could relate to his work because it was set in Plymouth. I could see where he had taken shots and I could go to the locations and see what he'd seen and get a visual idea of how he composed the photo - which is exactly what I did. I had a copy of his book and I literally went page by page and found the locations.

How is the book progressing?
It’s not done yet, but it’s progressing. All of the photographs shot for my last project are the essence of the book. As soon as I get all of the images put together I'll go back to Robin and he'll tell me what looks good. He's probably sick of me now but I'm emailing asking book design tips and he's always very helpful and interested in looking at my work.

You’re approaching the end of your final year. How do you feel about leaving college?

I’ll miss it. I will always remember Plymouth College of Art as the beginning of me, the beginning of my career, and the beginning of my passion. There's nothing I won't miss about it.

See more of Tom's work at