Interview: Tom Hood | Hood is Good

By thelaegotist / / Tom Hood, aka Hood is Good is a semi-accidental advertising photographer and definitely an aesthete at heart. Originally from “a tiny little town in upstate New York called Penn Yan”, he’s now based in San Francisco. Okay, so, we may have poached this one, but, hey, the SF Egotist had their chance. What do you do? Describe your creative process and its result The end product is creative, thoughtful images. The process begins by determining the story that needs to be told, or what it is that needs to be illustrated. Then, it becomes a process of assembling the parts and pieces that go into that story. The who/what/where/when/why all figure into it from my perspective. Whether those images appear on the web, printed material or even a billboard is up to the people that hire me. Sometimes it’s a big agency complete with creatives, account people and clients that’s a team effort and takes weeks to manifest itself. Or, it could be as simple as getting a call from a picture editor looking for an image or series of images of someone or something they’re profiling. Describe your workspace/studio: the environment you create in I go where the pictures need to be made. Out on location, a field in the hills, the edge of a lake, a person’s home, some great building. The people on my speed dial are producers and location scouts. I work extensively with them to find great locations. Wherever the project leads me. Everything from cities like San Francisco or LA to small towns in the corners like Meyers or Campo. Where did you learn your craft? My dad was a really serious hobbyist in photography and we always had cameras around. I went to RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) and received a BFA but really I learned the business through assisting other photographers. A couple years working for Erik Almas showed me that images, especially in the commercial sense, need to be created not just captured. My work is a balance of the two. What I try to do is put things together and then try and capture the moment. Growing up, I didn’t understand that photography, and creating images could be a viable career option. My dad wasn’t a photographer; he was a businessman. Photography was something did in his spare time. I went to a liberal arts school because that’s what you did but there was something kind of lacking. I was studying but I wasn’t really finding satisfaction. My sister Katy was a photo editor in NY and gave me a camera. She told me I should look into it and that’s what opened my eyes to photography as a career. Tell us a little bit about your series “The Forgotten”: I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of the Christmas tree; this living thing we bring in from outdoors and for a few weeks becomes the central focal point of our homes, then tossed out. I grew up on a lake in western New York and it would freeze every winter. We’d get a Christmas tree and have it up for a couple of weeks. When it was time to take it down, my dad would dig a hole in the ice and the tree would stand up in the ice until the ice melted and it would sink to the bottom and fish would make a home out of it. It’s as if the tree had an extended life. When I moved out to San Francisco, I’d be walking around the first or 2nd week of January and the trees would all come out to the sidewalk to be hauled away by the trash collectors and recyclers. It was just this presence that occurred after the New Year and they were everywhere. I started playing around with the camera and responding to the elements. I want to get more images, though. I want to go back East where there is snow and get that element in there. I want to go back where it’s barren and add that element, too. The environment is all part of the narrative, not just the subject. Who/what is your greatest personal inspiration? I really look up to my grandmother for her strength and her respect for the people around her. She passed away at 93 a few years back. She was a constant positive force. There was no judgment. Everyone, including people she just met called her grandmother: that was the type of person she was. Growing up around her shaped the way I approach and maintain my relationships. Relationships are integral part of my image making, not just in those that I show in my pictures, but having strong relationships I have with the people I work with is key. Who do you admire in your field? There are so many great image makers out there. Directors, cinematographers, painters, too many to list. In the historical sense, I admire Eugene Atget who is known for his turn-of-the-century Paris landscapes and street scenes. Robert Frank used the imagery to made images that were very truthful. There was obviously an opinion and a motive, but he just made imagery that told a story. It was the late 50s, the medium was evolving and he made these statements with his images that were a lot of times difficult to look at but so truthful. What do you consider your greatest achievement or success to date? I’m still a young guy, emerging in my field. One of the things I’ve been glad about is that I’ve been able to live in San Francisco for 8 years and work in a field that makes me happy and have been able make a living. But I hope my greatest achievement is still ahead of me. What is the best thing about your creative endeavor? That I have the ability to problem solve and work in my industry with a tool that really turns me on. I’m a people watcher: observing interactions and using that as my tableau. That’s what I love. To be able to tell peoples’ stories. The toughest? Staying fresh and creating work that remains personal while still making a living. Not only do I need to make new imagery that’s consistent with the brand and evocative, but also to be remembered. What are your top influences, inspirations or spots? 1. There’s a great spot in Marin County where you can see the city and the ocean and you’re in the Redwoods. I ride my bike there to be by myself. It’s a place I found before I moved here and I had this “aha” moment while watching the fog roll in and knew I was going to move here. 2. I love to cook. I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. Working in a creative field, a lot of times you’re working on a big project that involves a lot of collaboration that takes time and the results may not appear for a while. But you walk into a kitchen and make a meal and it’s an immediate gratification. It can be visually beautiful or it smells great or there are people around and they come together to enjoy it. Of all the places you could be creating, why San Francisco? For me, if you look at California in general, there is an amazing amount of diversity, not just in landscape (beach, ocean, woods, golden grassy plain, redwood forests) but also the diversity of people. I’m drawn to photographing people, after all. There are all types of people in California and many cultures. San Francisco is a major urban area that draws transplants and tourists from around the world. Walking down the street you not only see locals, but you hear the visitors, the accents, the languages. People from all different backgrounds come to see the town and it’s really inspiring. Do you have a philosophy and/or words to live by? Everyone has a story. Where can we find you?