Published in Plaid Magazine Online, May 2011
Al Thompson’s website bio plainly reads, “Based in NY with a few ideas and a camera.” This simplicity is also evident in his photography, yet he still manages to seduce us with his work. Thompson chats with Plaid about how an idea and a camera can make the magic happen.
When did you fall in love with photography? Did you always know that you wanted to pursue it as a career?
In late 2005 I decided to jump from graphic arts to photography. At some point in college I studied graphics, which led me to taking various photography courses in the dark room, but never in a million years would I ever [have] thought I’d be a full-on photographer.
Did you receive an education in photography?
I learned some of the more basic courses in college but I’d have to give most of the credit to photo assisting throughout the years. Some things you just can’t learn in school.
What inspires your work? Who are your creative influences?
Blending old with new concepts that not only work well with the eyes but also bend the very meaning of what photography really is. Paolo Roversi, Richard Avedon, and James Macari all created their own movement without conformity.
What emotions do you try to evoke from your viewers?
I play around with emotions in an ethereal yet seductive sense. Simplicity is key; sometimes you make more noise with less. Ultimately, if it’s fashion then it should be about the clothes and my models should be wearing them, not the other way around.
What is your favourite thing to capture?
The Universe has many things to offer. I always find comfort from the smallest to the largest subjects this planet has. But my brain works from an organic point of view where whatever sparks my interest will get my attention at the time.
What do you love most about your profession?
One of the things that drew me close to photography was the mere fact that I can be an artist without compromising my integrity. It’s like shooting a movie while including a bit of my personality that evokes more than just emotions but conversing with my subjects without uttering a single word. Then I sometimes ask myself the question, “What is photography, really?” Let’s just say I come up with a different answer every time.
Who is one person that you would love to shoot?
Jesus. Yes, Jesus. I’d love to have a photo session with him, or what I would call a conversation. My first question would be, “Do you do nudes?”
Do you enjoy being on the other side of the camera?
I’ve been on the other side of the camera before and it feels almost as if I’m naked. That’s not to say I’m uncomfortable being naked. But it’s the kind of naked where you go to a shooting range with friends and everybody has a gun but you!
What makes the perfect photo?
I think Terry Richardson answered that question in not so many words. He took a chance and got discovered by saying there’s no such rules as ‘this is how your subjects should be lit’. So my question is, “Why is it there has to be a law for everything?” Isn’t art really about creating your own world and forget if someone likes it or not?