From the series Crash (c) Dylan Thomas
Beautiful they may be, shot in stark, textural detail and illuminated by a single overhead light source – but what exactly are these bleak, forbidding rooms, uniformly cell-like in their size and structure, each empty except for a battered foam mat?
Dylan Thomas, who shoots rather different interiors for a living, isn’t letting on just yet. For his latest personal project, titled Crash, there’s a mystery he wants to maintain, and he delights in holding the answer from you. So far the series numbers 10 pictures, all shot to the same perspective and focusing on these same dirty, claustrophobic spaces, which conjure thoughts of torture chambers or Third-World prisons. Letting us ponder their function is all part of his game.
A former assistant to Lord Snowdon and Brian Griffin, he is now with Karen Howes Interiors, his agent for the past four years. “I learnt a hell of a lot from assisting them,” he says. “Like how every little bit of the frame is significant.” And he can still rely on them for support and advice. “I went to Brian recently saying I needed help with my direction. He’s always ready to help.”
His plan is to add new directions to his work, using his personal projects to steer a different course and elevate his profile. “I want to see how I can make it pay in the long term,” he explains. “And I want to do more corporate social responsibility photography. It’s more satisfying.”
Thomas just came back from Durban, where he shot the Deloitte-sponsored Street Child World Cup. “I asked for a day in a school to do some personal work. I felt so much better for doing it. But to do that kind of work, you’ve got to start with clients you’ve already worked for, then start thinking of bigger, longer projects [and hope to carry them with you].” His plan is to go to FIFA’s first Football for Hope centre in South Africa while the country hosts the World Cup in June. The centre, the first of 20, is using football to teach children about HIV.
“What I’m really thinking is, where it is I’m going career-wise. I think, why die with your ideas? You should die knowing that your ideas have helped change things and come to fruition. Photographers who think their ideas are precious are thinking the wrong way. Ideas don’t grow if you keep them to yourself.”
This latest project has nothing to do with corporate social responsibility, however. The spaces in Crash are, in fact, pub cellars in north London and the keg drop mats they use to load in beer through a street-level trap door above. He was immediately struck by their photographic potential.
“You can go to the worst pubs, but the cellars are always immaculate. There’s uniformity in the space because of the standard width of the old wooden beer kegs – they all had to be the same. It’s that, and the fact that they look almost like a sacred place, that I’m interested in.”
Thomas will be entering the series into competitions this year, and after that he is considering how he could show the photographs and get more exposure for the project. “It’s about proving that I can do more than editorial, and showing what I really enjoy shooting. Ideally, I’d gladly spend half my time on ad photography. It would pay for my personal work.”
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