Exposure: Tom Johnson

Art Director Gem Fletcher examines the work of Tom Johnson, in the latest installment of a series looking into talent in photography, from recent graduates to photographers breaking the rules…

Eddjei, The Thirty Three

“I’m interested in the people who make a place or community. The faces you see in the pubs, social clubs and bus stops.”

Tom Johnson’s work is a love letter to the people and places he explores. His work defies genre, fusing fashion and documentary to create provocative social studies that simultaneously celebrate authenticity and fantasy.

Shooting and casting in small towns around the UK, he embeds himself into a community from anywhere between six weeks and three months, getting to know the locals and collaborating with them on projects. “People aren’t learning about each other; we live such segregated lives. I want the work to create connections and bring people together.”

The photographic image creates a unique space which can activate the viewer, challenging us to look at ourselves and others with fresh perspective. Within his hybrid of fashion and documentary, Tom’s work tackles deeper questions of identity, politics, gender and beauty.

Street casting has played a significant role in the fashion industry for decades, however what makes Tom’s work so refreshing is his conscientious and collaborative approach. The styling takes on the person’s flaws and characteristics creating a wonderful tension between reality and fantasy, effortlessly making the exclusive, inclusive.

‘Merthyr Rising’ his most significant work to date, was shot in collaboration with stylist Charlotte James. The project explores Charlotte’s hometown of Merthyr in north Wales, an ex-mining town pictured by the media as deprived, work-shy and in economic decline. The project challenges these misconceptions capturing the beauty and energy within the community. Many of the images resonate with the idea of fragility and joy. The precarious balance of these forces is what makes this project so emotive and compelling.

Tigger and the Dragons
Tigger and the Dragons

Their successful collaboration has continued with ‘The Evans Girls’, a delicate and playful fashion story featuring two young sisters Kyra and Evie and most recently with ‘Tigger and the Dragons’. Tigger (Victoria Louise Perkins) is a twelve-year-old British Kickboxing champion, the images shot in her training gym, reflect her strength and vulnerability.

Tom’s stylistic approach is pure, mixing daylight with playful and intimate compositions to reflect the natural beauty of his subjects and their environments. He has successfully translated this into a variety of commercial assignments for clients including Studio Toogood, Gucci, Adidas and Sony.

Tom’s strength lies in his ability to create powerful and emotive stories that champion everyday heroes. His work unites us, connecting people from different places and perspectives. Post Brexit, creative work that is inclusive and joyful feels more relevant than ever.



What's the story?

The Storytelling issue, Oct/Nov 2017, is out now.
We invited writers to respond to our cover image
this month: read their stories inside.
PLUS: Tom Gauld, Oliver Jeffers, Giphy & S-Town

Buy the issue

The Annual 2018

The Creative Review Annual is one of the most
respected and trusted awards for the creative
industry. We celebrate the best creative work from
the past year, those who create it and commission it.

Enter now


South East London


Burnley, Lancashire (GB)