“I’ve done a lot of things in this life, and photography is always the one that’s given me the most pleasure,” says photographer Tommy Gibson. 

Retired from his role as a photography instructor at West Valley College in Saratoga, California and a past career as an industrial photographer, Gibson has returned to Whatcom County where he grew up and attended Nooksack Valley High School. His work can be found in Adventures Northwest magazine and Black & White magazine.  

Q: Did you have any artistic inspirations when you first got into photography? 

A: In terms of people who inspired me, when I first got into photography it would be Edward Weston, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Ansel Adams. I admired their combination of subjects, sense of composition, and technical expertise. When I started out, I was inspired by portraiture, modern architecture, and photojournalism. Each required a different approach that helped me hone my understanding of photography. 

Q: Do you have any artistic inspirations now? Who or what are they? 

A: Today, I’m really drawn to dramatic clouds and enjoy pulling abstracts from old structures and old vehicles. I also draw inspiration from any landscape scenes such as the Palouse and Death Valley, both of which I never get tired of photographing.  

Q: How do you choose your subject matter? 

A: I find images in almost anything. I choose my subject matter based on my ability to see images that most people overlook. 

Q: Some people believe that photography is a less intensive art form than, say, painting or sculpting. Do you agree or disagree? Why? 

A: I very much disagree. They each have their levels of intensity. Photographers don’t just see a scene and photograph it. There is learning to use your tools, such as what lens will give me the look I want, which shutter speed or aperture should I use to give me the desired effect I’m looking for. And that’s just for starters. Once the photographer has captured the image, then there is bringing the vision to life in the wet or digital darkroom. 

Q: What advice do you have for photographers who are just starting out? 

A: I would say to someone just starting out: First and foremost, learn your tools. It does you no good to have a great eye and have a great composition in mind and not know how to produce a good image. I would also say: Study what other painters, sculptors and photographers have been doing. In this age of digital photography, it is more difficult than it was when film ruled the medium. No matter which discipline of photography you choose, stick to your vision and be yourself. 

Q: What can we expect from you next? 

A: I’m still learning, and I’m going to continue to go back to my roots of black and white photography and improve on my techniques. I feel there is still so much more for me to learn. When I think have learned all there is to know about photography, [that] is the day I will stop photographing.  

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