Portrait of a lifelong photographer
Jun 27, 2018 09:39AM
● By Jana Klopsch
Tomas Mitchell stands in his gallery of work in his kilt. He once spent three weeks in England and Scotland, which was a “photographic safari.” (Photo courtesy Tomas Mitchell)
By Heather Sky | [email protected]
It is no exaggeration to say that Tomas Mitchell’s photography career spans 30 years.
“I got interested in ’85, Mitchell said. “I had a friend that was doing photography, and he had a film camera he sold me. I started taking pictures and pretty quickly decided that was what I wanted to do. I started doing it as a hobby and started working at a camera store in ‘87. I learned how to develop and print black-and-white film and how to develop color film.”
Between positions at one-hour photo labs, portrait studios and camera repair shops, his knowledge within the field of photography encompasses a wide range. Eventually, Mitchell opened his own camera repair business, shot freelance for modeling agencies and finally started a career with Fuji Film, which has now been his day job for 20 years.
“Taking pictures is something I’ve always done,” he said.
But it wasn’t until 2015 that he decided to start selling his photographs again.
“This kind of [work] was always my love,” he said. “I always wanted to sell it, but I never did. Then we went to England and Scotland in 2004, and it was one big photographic safari. We traveled for three weeks, and when we got back, [I decided] to start selling at Renaissance Fairs and Scottish Festivals. People liked the stuff.” The response he received convinced him it was time to start sharing his art.
Throughout his career, Mitchell has watched digital technology propel the evolution of photography, and—like most professional photographers—eventually had to retire his film cameras.
“I shoot with a digital camera, and I manipulate my [work] some,” he said. “Once I decided to start shooting digital, I didn’t really like it. It was a big shift, and I didn’t really like my results because it wasn’t like shooting film. Different types of film will give you different saturations, different contrast ranges—and digital seemed really flat.”
Mitchell said it has helped getting familiar with editing software.
“When I started shooting in raw format and started learning Photoshop, that helped a ton,” he said. “I spend hours and hours and hours editing pictures. It’s been a huge learning curve, and it’s very time consuming.”
Mitchell exudes just as much humility as he does kindness.
“I do not think I am the best photographer,” he said. “Sometimes I see the shot and [know] that’s what I want. Other times, I have to find the right perspective. Sometimes it’s just luck. One thing I have learned in life is no matter how good you are—or think you are—there is always someone better. Another thing I have learned, is you can learn something from almost everyone you meet.”
Regardless of the success he has found within the field of photography, Mitchell admits music is his first love. His basement man cave is where he spends hours editing photos and playing music. He is a multi-instrumentalist musician—but primarily spends his time playing guitar, drums and percussion.
“If I get frustrated I come down here and take a 10 minute break,” he said, before demonstrating his drum skills. The room is packed with a wide variety of string instruments, keyboards and even an accordion. Luckily, his wife, Erica, also loves music and doesn’t object to his closet addiction. You can find a link to his music—as well as his image galleries—on his website at twmitchell.com.
Tomas was the only artist representing Midvale at Salt Lake Arts Fest.