Resort and lifestyle photography that convey a message and surpass the high standards of the well-known brands – interview with Thomas Hart Shelby
By Joe James
Talented photographer Thomas Hart Shelby started his career at fifteen, learning from master photographers and completing assignments for such legendary artists as Andy Warhol and Halston. Over the years he has worked in different fields of photography – from photojournalism to fashion – and his work has been published in prestigious magazines like National Geographic, Forbes and Fortune. His client list varies from The Ritz Carlton and Waldorf Astoria to American Express and Jack Daniels. Currently Thomas is mostly focused on luxury resort and hotel photography and creates stunning interior, exterior and lifestyle images that convey the unique atmosphere of each place he photographs.
We’ve spoke with Thomas about his career milestones, future plans and more. Read on to learn more about it.
Production Paradise: You studied under Dan Dry and Melissa Farlow when you were 15 years old. You worked in the New York Studio of Sing-Si Schwartz. You got the chance to work with Andy Warhol. How did these experiences help you in the beginning of your career?
Thomas Hart Shelby: It was invaluable, my mentors were all serious photographers who did not tolerate or praise mediocrity. They were hard on me, so when I started working I was truly ready, thanks to them.
Production Paradise: You also shoot portraits, among them many celebrities. Did you ever photograph someone who truly inspires you?
Thomas Hart Shelby: That’s an easy one, Jane Goodall was just plain inspirational. She is a woman who calls it like she sees it and she had some great stories. Dennis Hopper was as cool as you might imagine! I was a little nervous shooting him because I’m also a fan, he worked to make the shoot go smoothly and really put me at ease.
Production Paradise: Could you tell us more about shooting for recognized brands like Jack Daniels and Forbes?
Thomas Hart Shelby: I feel that when you are lucky enough to work for great brands or great magazines you tend to dig a little deeper within yourself knowing that the standard has already been set so high.
Production Paradise: What is your approach when shooting interiors and attempting to capture the true feel of a location?
Thomas Hart Shelby: With interiors I approach it like this: I look to see what is right with the room, not what is wrong. I add up all of the room’s best assets and concentrate on them. Good natural light can make any location look interesting.
Production Paradise: What are the challenges you regularly face in your work?
Thomas Hart Shelby: The challenges are never ending. No job is ever quite perfect. The trick is to take what you have been given, add what you can, and make it great. The client is not paying for a base hit – they want a home run. Fortunately Mike, my producer and business partner, puts me in a position to succeed because he is so prepared for what might go wrong far in advance.
Production Paradise: Having worked with many big industry names, is there anyone you would like to work with, but have not had the chance to?
Thomas Hart Shelby: That would be a long list! I like to work with companies and brands that care about being the best at what they do or make, the feeling of pride is contagious. That being said The Ritz in Paris would be nice, a certain German car company and any number of bourbon distilleries.
Production Paradise: What projects are you currently working on?
Thomas Hart Shelby: My next project will be in Las Vegas doing a branding project that will also include a motion component. This particular project will be challenging in that we will be directing the branding and developing the look and feel of the campaign on the fly.
Production Paradise: In what ways is Production Paradise useful for you?
Thomas Hart Shelby: So far it has been great exposure for us. So many creatives get a chance to see the work, if they find my approach appealing then via a link they can explore further and look at our website. Production Paradise is a great way for potential clients to search out and find a photographer that fits their needs.
We would like to say a big thank you to Thomas for talking with us and wish him all the best in his future projects. You can see more of his work in recently published New York Showcase, Interiors, Architecture & Resort Photography Spotlight and Thomas’ member page.