tom chambers – prom



Prom Gown #3 by Tom Chambers


BURN will soon be featuring an essay by this artist. For this series, Mr. Chambers was influenced by Mexican religious art.

101 Responses to “tom chambers – prom”

  • I know my fashion obsessed buddy
    Karim will love this shot…
    Impressive… Loves it:-)

  • Isnt there an easier way to correct her posture? :o)

  • Jeff Wall finds Fashion. Surgical sensation, good stuff Tom.

  • dream song!….

    just spent some time watching your ‘films’…:)))…each gallery like a projection from our sleep-skulls….and weary grows the land, then aflame grows the mind…..

    gorgeous gorgeous, righteous stuff….an abacus of all….

    and i thought my childhood bed was stiff…but what a frickin’ window with a view ;)))))

    river run it through us…cant wait to see the essay….

    with mustafah and tom back to back, Burn is on fire!……..


  • yes, sure, an interesting image. tom’s got chops; burn’s aflame.

    however… there are any number of great (ok, good) blogs out there highlighting whomever — what makes it special that it’s here on “burn?”

    just another picture on another blog.

    an interview with tom, btw:

  • What makes it different for me, at least so far, is the participation of the artists being shown. Not a Q&A with the artist, but participation. Interactivity, it drives the online world… or will.

    Beautiful shot, by the way, great colors….

  • fair enough, jared.

    great 3 shots — in the interview linked above he talks about this composite.

  • oh, Tom. with all due respect – you are a master of _working_ spookiness. I am really looking forward to your essay.
    this one is real good. and spooky.

  • This intriguing image sent me directly to google where I clicked on the following link:

    I’ve now looked at every image in Tom’s galleries and read most of his artist statements and interviews. What a fascinating journey into the world of magic realism! But even though he creates photomontages, don’t assume Tom is a digital photog. No, to create the components for his photomontages, Tom uses medium format film cameras exclusively. And where each of our photos might take a fraction of a second to come into being, a work by Tom can take months from conception to completion.

    In me, this photo evokes reminders of the sacrificial nature of a girl passing from childhood into womanhood. It implies all that she must lose in order to gain the fullness that is to come. I find it to be poignant and deeply emotional. Of course it is exquisitely beautiful as well. That goes without saying.

    Thanks to Tom for daring to follow his own creative path, and thanks to DAH for pushing Burn into new territory…


  • Oh, to clarify, I said beautiful, not great. :)

  • JEFF J..

    i guess you have not been around to get the “whole picture” pun intended…we are trying to create a forum here for some original production and funding for grants to photographers (see under “dialogue” Visions 2009) and the Emerging Photographer Fund…sure, you might see material here that you could have seen somewhere else..but, maybe not…some of the work here was created just for BURN and more to come…stay tuned…or not…but, you are most welcomed to create work , show us work, create discussion, or just help us to get the funding to create a much needed new paradigm for today’s photographer…thanks for your comment…

    cheers, david

  • David I’m very glad you posted this image. I think this is the first real shift towards constructed photomontages on this forum.. how interesting. Totally new ground for me I must say.. so I only have initial thoughts and I’m very open and curious to how others see this image and photomontages in general. At first I was a bit jolted to see this because for me it’s a completely different medium and requires a different set of senses to appreciate. My gut reaction was to see it with suspicion, although with more thought and discussion I look forward to paying more appreciation the world of photomontages.

    Why was I jolted? Typically when I look on this site, or the shelves of photo books that I hold dear, I am looking at pictures in which the photographer thoughtfully and skillfully dances with the subject/scene/light. I am generally interested in the story that was taking place in front of the photographer at that time and how the photographer put him/herself in just that place and time with luck, tenacity, patience, skill, and relationship to capture a beautiful and/or telling image.

    Here, I don’t feel the ballet. I don’t feel the magic of photographing the fleeting moment where all the pieces were just right. Instead it’s constructed, directed, and produced. Again, that’s cool, just a new set of senses getting their footing here. :)

    Okay, so it’s different. This is the new incarnation of painting on canvas. It’s a new consideration for me. This stuff has been around a while, I’ve just never really considered it, as I will now.

    As for Tom shooting medium format film.. that’s all well and good, but I don’t think the images should be held in any higher regard because of that. They still look heavily photoshopped to me – which I could care less about, that’s not my point – but to dispel any confusion, once the film is scanned hi-res, it’s got about same potential for manipulation as a digital raw file. Manipulated film scan or manipulated digi file.. one doesn’t get more respect over the other from me.

    So Prom Gown #3 shows beautiful light and color and, perfectly executed and produced, the symbology is apparent and telling.. Not yet do I get an emotional reaction from it, though. I’ll keep looking and listening.

  • Lance :))))

    Good on you brother! :))))…i too was so so happy to see this image today…ironically a few clicks (hours) after Joe, Lassal and I had been writing about the idea of ‘constructed’ photography. I LOVE all photography and i have always had a very special place for ‘construction’ in images. it probably comes from my painting background, but i see all photography as a construction, all of it, it just is differentiated by WHEN that construction occurs: before (moment), of (camera), after (darkroom/photoshop), after-after (print, exhibition, book, online, projection, etc)…it is all good and nutrious.

    i also am so happy to see an image and a photographer that embraces PhotoShop here and is open about it. I have never understood all the hemming and hawing about the use of PS. It is not really any different then working in the darkroom (i know, i print in the darkroom, though increasingly, grow attached to PS since i have to scan my negatives). I know there is the ‘ethical’ challenge in PhotoJournalism (a different discussion) but i love that David has decided to showcase a photo and a photographer whose process involves actively construction/manipulation, cause it’s just more transparent language for what each of us does….I hope that work like Tom’s as well as other photographers who embrace the tool of PHotoShop will be enjoyed and embraced here. Having come from the art world (where the question of PS is not a concern at all) to the world of documentary work, I am so happy to see both word’s drinking at the same hacienda….its been a long time coming and im just so thrilled that the burn world mirrors the world of photography at large:

    whatever happens that sings out about this weird and beautifully fucked medium of photography…

    ok, some of my own heros in photography include the Russian Constructivists…..

    one of my hero’s Alexander Rodchenko. and of course Alexander Grinberg,

    which has continued to animate Russian contemporary photography (go figure why it’s an important part of my life ;))))))))) )…..

    a good beginning: (though before Photoshop)

    the key is that Burn has and continues to embrace the entirety of what is possible with photography within the context of a single magazine and a magazine constructed of dialogue :))))

    here here to all that’s shakin :)))


  • Was just appreciating the tone and mood and light of this image and was also inwardly nodding at Lance’s reaction, when my 7 year old neighbor friend looked over my shoulder at the image and said in one breath “Who is doing that?, Why is she doing that? Nobody is doing that. That would hurt.” Pretty close to my initial response!! It’s a photo that stops you in your tracks and makes you wonder and then come back to your senses about the real and surreal..

  • Viva la difference!

    I love this because its a completely constructed image that is NOT the blank, staring into the camera minimalist approach I have seen so much of when it comes to self conscious ‘art’ photography!

    Its fabulous to see another example of the diversity of photography- too often we get caught up in the whole concept that photojournalism/street photography is the quintessional ‘unguarded moment’ as the zenith of photographic practice but with the exception of a truly ‘spot news’ situation we all carefully edit our images to point in the direction we want them to anyway…

    Which to my mind is constructing the finished product as much as the image above- which is, after all, aesthetically very pleasing and while I probably don’t delve into the beauty and experience the sensusal pleasure of a Harvey image, or contemplate the girls ‘pain’ in an incredibly intense emotional way, like I do with a Nachtwey image, I do THINK about these things because of the strong symboligy in relation to the image.

    It does certainly work for me and I look forward to seeing the essay, wish I had time to look up the website… Burn is certainly a great magazine for bringing this artist work to attention!

  • I supposed the pictures here were all documental. It would be good know more about what mean this. The image is nice but i don’t know how to manage this. I wonder myself like Erica friend, why? who? Maybe i don’t know much about mexican religion.

  • I hear you LANCE!

    I attended an opening for Tom Chambers at Photo Eye in Santa Fe a couple of years ago and had exactly the reaction Lance did. Tom was in attendance and I made the point of talking to him to see if I could open my mind a bit to what he was doing. Told him that I was out looking for the things in real life that he was creating on the computer :))

    I am sorry to misquote him but Tom said something to me (more or less) along the lines that he has a “day job” and just did not have the time to go out and wait for stuff to happen in “real life.” That for him what works is imagining the scene the way he wants it and then creating that vision in the computer.Again, not an exact quote, that’s just the way I heard it…

    Bottom line for me is that digital art is a lovely art form. People like Maggie Taylor can put animal heads on people, etc…but it is certainly NOT documentary photography, not by a longshot. Is it self expression…yes I suppose and Tom is GREAT at what he does but for me this type of work is too easy. Not the technique…that is far from easy. It involves hours and hours and a great deal of talent but the part about seeing something that actually exists in the world and putting one’s own stamp on it is what photography is all about for me. I definitely wasn’t thinking burn would be about computer generated art but if you say it is, then it is!

  • i’m not digging this in the slightest.

    definitely not the kind of thing that i expected to see on Burn.

    if i wanted to look at this kind of work I would go to

  • While I’m always impressed with fine photoshop work, I had hoped Burn would be about photography…the real fraction of a second stuff. This just holds no interest to me at all here.

  • Hate to start the great debate, but you and Ben seem to have a pretty narrow view of photography if you consider documentary forms as the only version that you consider art.

    I think this photographers work is very good because its aesthetic amplifies his conceptual concerns, which as I said in my initial post may not give me a visceral response to the work but does give me a thought provoking one…

    I mean I see thousands of photos every week and without the aesthetic magnifying what the photographer is trying to say, its just all so much wallpaper…

  • Interesting…. I have to say that I have always been totally uninterested by any sort of photo montage, pictures created with photoshop. Somehow, the magic is not there for me. Magic for me comes from capturing a particular moment that only last 1/125s and will never happen again… The magic of capturing that “decisive moment”, whether a particular composition, juxtaposition, or expression on someone’s face or whatever else happens during that very short fractiom of time sets photography apart from other arts… Now clearly, I know that most afterwards will play with the light either on the computer or into the dark room but still, the essence of the photograph is that one unique moment captured by the photographer….

    Now, having said all this, I went to look at Tom Chmabers’ site (I did not know him) and clearly, Tom has an undisputable talent for what he does. I am in admiration of what he has composed, created iwith a lot of imagination and patience in the same way I can be in admiration of a great painting of an artist but, at least for me, this is not the same as capturing the magic of a moment. Art for sure, but not the photography that I like….



  • OK, I need to come out of the closet as a former (and maybe future) photomontage practitioner.

    For six months in 2007 all that interested me was the creation of composites. Some were totally abstract; others realistic; many were humorous. I used this form to make political/social statements as well as simple exercises in form/texture/mood. I worked in color and b&w. Every photo I took was made with an eye towards how it could be used in conjunction with other images.

    I’d taken a university course called Photoshop for Photographers and was totally hooked. It seemed a natural outgrowth of my years as a multimedia artist. To be honest I never imagined I’d go back to straight photography. But I did. And I’m sure my months of being free as a bird creatively impacted how I saw and took photos from then on. When I look at my current images for “Falling Into Place” I see a direct relationship to my photomontages, especially in what others have called my “looseness.”

    I wonder if those who have the most trouble seeing the value in work like Tom’s might find it helpful to try some photomontages themselves. Try walking in his shoes and see how they fit…


  • thanks for calling me narrow minded Lisa, oh and for putting words in my mouth… As far as I am aware, I don’t think I actually said:

    “i think documentary forms of photography are the only version that can be considered art”

    Yeah, I checked again. I definitely didn’t say that.

    If you want my honest opinion, the main reason that i don’t like this image (and the rest of the images that I have seen on his site) is simply that I have seen much better work in a similar vein from the likes of (for instance) Simen Johan.

    okay. now if i promise not to put words in your mouth Lisa, can you return me the favour?

  • I should weigh in at this point…

    I realized that posting my work on a site known for documentary photography was sticking my neck out a bit. My work can be classified as surrealism or magic realism and is best presented in fine art venues. I am not asking my work to be believable in any literal, representational way, but am asking it to be considered on an emotional level.

    Although I have the greatest respect for photojournalism or documentary photography, I choose to follow this path because it gives me the freedom to express my own personal vision. I work by visualizing and sketching the image first and then shooting the parts and pieces later. I enjoy building an image, rearranging the elements for composition, adjusting color… tearing it apart, reshooting and building it again. A cross between painting and photography if you will.

    I feel fortunate to be able to elicit these powerful responses, thank you! And thank you Burn for venturing into uncharted waters.

  • I am always surprised by this kind of images. In a pleasant way sometimes. Tom, I feel its great you have allowed to express yourself. Although, I have mixed feelings about digital manipulation when it comes to photography…I think you also help me think and push my envelope a little bit. I have seen some of Pedro Meyer’s work – -and it has also left me with mixed feelings…perhaps its the new digital era where things are happening so fast that its not easy to keep track of everything…
    ‘Indeed the great documentary medium has taken up a career in fiction’ – V. Goldberg

  • Lisa,
    I am adding another comment under what Eric said. It fits better there but I will second what Ben said…I did not say the world revolves around documentary photography or that it is the only form I consider to be art. I just said this was not that. Very simple and nothing to start a war over :))

    Read my next comment about the decisive moment and feel free to comment again.
    Thank goodness we have opinions about this work and don’t just blindly accept it!

  • What I am feeling is very much along the lines of what Eric said. I was having this conversation (with myself) all thru dinner and couldn’t wait to get home to write it down.

    Please think about this for a moment…

    There are some photographers who don’t believe in (straight) digital photography even, because there is no “negative” or original image. Well in the case of this type of photography, there is not an original MOMENT either.

    As Eric said:
    “The magic of capturing that “decisive moment”, whether a particular composition, juxtaposition, or expression on someone’s face or whatever else happens during that very short fractiom of time sets photography apart from other arts…”

    Call me narrow minded (Lisa) but I do prefer photography that is based on a REAL moment in time.

  • And I personally hope that Burn will continue to venture into uncharted waters. To my way of thinking what we are about here is fostering a vision broad enough to embrace as many ways of using a camera as can be imagined.

    For instance, I would certainly hope that if Harry Callahan were alive today, we’d have a place for his experimental images of Eleanor here on Burn.

  • My wife will love it! :)

    I have only one question: do you are author or every part of your work (horses, dogs)? Or you use some parts of agencies pictures?
    excellent! One of most the interesting I’ve seen last time.

  • are you author not do you. Isn’t it?
    ehhh… I think I will never speak english correctly.

  • ** this image immediately disturbed me… but in a powerful way.. as a woman.. ohhh.. yes.. real vs. surreal… ** Strong photo..

  • Oh c’mon Tom ;-)….
    U know “BURN”…, “Roadtrips”…
    It’s all about those “uncharted waters”!!!
    peace & hugs

  • Nope…
    Sorry… No you won’t..
    Neither will I!!!

  • Capa speaks Capa’s english so I can speak marcin’s english :)
    and Panos speaks swearing english :)

  • Hi Marcin !
    I think the same thing “I will to never speak english correctly.” We are 2!
    Best, audrey

  • It is an interesting and positive thing that a range of photographic styles are being given time and space on Burn, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things develop over the next few weeks; but I have to admit that this particular image leaves me cold.

    Also, when I look at the image I’m jolted a little by what appears to be a technical flaw in the montaging of the images: the angle of the light hitting the wooden structure doesn’t seem (to my eye) to match the angle of the light hitting the model herself. In addition, light across the background and foreground (the background and foreground upon which the other elements have been superimposed) appears to me much flatter than the light on either the model or the structure.

    I personally have no problem using Photoshop to improve a photograph, or bring out a certain element of an image – that is obviously what PS was created to do; but I do have a problem with Photoshop work that through either over-use or careless technique comes to dominate an image, taking me out of the “world” of the image and into the realm of its production (unless, of course, doing that is the deliberate intention of the work).

    The film ‘Titanic’ worked wonderfully well for many people because its incredibly extensive use of special effects never got in the way of its emotional story, and so suspension of disbelief, immersion in the imagined space, was possible. The story, of course, did not need to be very complex – just good enough to move from A to B and finally on to C. Many films fail, however, because no matter how pure and elementary their stories, their emotional hooks, may be, their SFX get in the way, preventing people from fully investing in their “worlds”.

    I can’t get invested in the world in this image: the technique is in the way of the story. And that’s a pity, as I am intrigued by the girl lying in the air on some wooden thing; and I am also keen to learn more about the source material, the Mexican religious art that at some point during the project infected the artist’s thought process. Links and the like would be excellent.

  • What an extraordinary shot to stumble upon first thing in the morning. It’s going to be stuck in my mind all day. Each time I drift from one topic to another inside my head, that shot will be there to dazzle me. This could be a strange day.

  • Marcin, it is clear from Tom Chambers’ web site that he is the sole author of all the componnts he uses in his photomontages.


  • Patricia

    It is almost obvious, but I would ask about shortcut anyway. In this kind photography there is always temptation. Especially in details.

  • Audrey

    The whole world are speaking own way of english. We are the biggest community on the world.
    The Ignorant English Speakers Community :)

    Anyway… maybe someone what to participate in some polish blog?
    Myśle, że znajdziemy nić porozumienia! :)

    peace for all

  • I can only speak three languages: hibernian english, the Queen’s english and American english. Hibernian is my native tongue.

  • One of the things I love about this community is the different ways that people communicate with english. It’s very interesting reading english by those for whom it’s not natural, so to speak. There’s an off kilter musicality to it. It should be celebrated.

  • Love the entire series on Tom´s website.

  • Weegee (Arthur Felig) was a master who would cut, bend stretch and burn his negatives. The more I engage in photography the more I rely on the digital darkroom to carry my images. While I appreciate the skill needed to make the above image, which is far beyond my own capacity in Photoshop, isn’t airbrushing better left to fashion magazines and T-shirts? Is it really where documentary photography, if that is what this is, should go? Sorry. But the quick answer for me is no.

    Also, I entirely agree with Gareth’s post above. As far as the content, I’ll wait to see more before making a judgment, though I must admit now that it’s difficult for me to enjoy this from the fantastic-plastic aesthetics.

  • Tom,
    Very interesting work and great to see something other then documentary, street and pj photography here.

  • :))

    Yeah Bob, we talked about it … Funny to have such an image here now.

    I am a little biased though. Probably no one here knows but I do a lot of product visualization for companies. One way of earning my money … And basically you “make” a “photo” of something somewhere that is completely fake. Usually the product does not yet exist nor does the surroundings. Because of time issues (I usually only have a day for these kind of jobs), you get it in 2D. So it is all composed in Photoshop/Painter.

    Other than with Tom’s work above, my work I would consider pure technique. I enjoy doing that enourmously, but it does give me a significant different pleasure than going out with the camera. Actually the pleasure of making these compositions is absolutley like the pleasure I had with drawing & painting. Very similar … although my paintings were more abstract. Guess it is because you start with a blank canvas and all is completely up to you. Sounds exciting … but actually I always found the whole process more than boring … Independently of what other people thought … I just got what I had in my mind … never more!

    I can only guess that I always found life “out there in the world” much more exciting because of the fact that it is unpredictable, which personally gives me more than to work 1 day to 1 month on an idea I had by myself. When there is no open parameter, nothing kicking me out of nowhere, I personally just feel like driving on rails … It does not please me more than on a technikal basis. That was the reason I quit painting after my first solo museum show. I had a pleased look around and then decided to move on. I personally never got enough out of it to justify the effort I put into it. Same, as I said, goes for the compositions … But there I get paid for – these are assignments – so it is something completely different. I have to imagine what a client would like to have and not what I would like to have … what makes it much more interesting still. It is a “service” I do in this case.

    This all just to explain my position here … Which is very personal.

    So yeah … I could slap me, but the first thing I noticed, like Gareth noted already, was the light not being consistent … The women is lit one way the “branches” another and the background yet differently. I could not help being disturbed by this so I actually thought I would not write about this image… It is very obvious that my job is getting into the way for me here. I apologize to Tom for that, because … well he could not care less :)

    As Tom said, he is not after being believable … although he could almost be with this image … There are others on his impressing website, that are much more surreal … They would make him more believable in not wanting to be believable :)

    But yeah, the mexican religious art … Really good … They always remind me the old egyptian paintings … You have the storytelling … the way things are depicted in the most recognizable way even if anatomy cries out loud … and obviously the symbolical meaning which lies behind.
    Russian Constructivism just partially overlapps this in my mind… But yeah … It is gordious!!! Mostly tiny collages… Amazing energy! We just had an exhibition here in Frankfurt that containes some of these images … I could have stolen them along with the Giacomelli …

    Getting on the wrong path here … :)))))

  • Oh … forgot to mention how wonderful it is, to find all of this here on BURN …!!
    DAH kept mentioning that he has an open mind for all kind of photography styles. If this is not believable by now, I do not know what is :)

  • “this image immediately disturbed me… but in a powerful way.. as a woman.. ohhh.. yes.. real vs. surreal… ** Strong photo..”

    You see, that’s the problem. It isn’t a strong photo. It isn’t a photo at all. I like different kinds of photography, but this isn’t photography. It may be created from a group of photos, but it certainly isn’t photography.

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