Artist in the Spotlight: Tom Joy

By November 19, 2014

Art & Photography. Leeds.


There are many hidden creative gems working amongst the Leeds Art Scene. ‘Artist in the Spotlight’ is TSOTA’s attempt to shine a light on some of them. You may or may not have come across them directly, but here at TSOTA we hope to gather them together and give you their lives in few words. You can then decide if you want to know more…

This week’s Artist in the Spotlight is: Tom Joy

Location: Leeds

Currently working on: Leeds Lurking and Places and Spaces photography series.

In a nutshell? Hello! I’m Tom. I’m 23, from Aberdeen, a graduate in Graphic Design and I have been a freelance photographer for just over four and a half years. I began photographing ‘professionally’ during my first year of University. Since then I have kept my subject matter broad, my expectations high and foot on the gas. Moving to Leeds in August 2013 was a bold move but I knew it had to happen for me to progress



TSOTA: What’s your background, what started your passion for photography?
TJ: I think I had my first camera when I was about 13 and I would spend hours setting up small still life shots on my desk and editing them on a computer but even further back than that I would get a disposable camera for trips and just play around with it. As I’ve grown up I have come to recognise that my Grandfather has probably been the most significant factor in my background to photography. As an established illustrator and painter he is the only creative link I have in my family and I always marvelled at his work when I was younger. My family has always motivated my creativity though and that has been a hugely significant support.


TSOTA: Why did you choose the locations that you’ve used for Places and Spaces? What makes them an interesting subject?
TJ: The places I’ve photographed so far are genuinely places that I like; I need to make that very clear. In each venue there might be a distinct piece of furniture or feature that summarises what this place is about. The overall space shots are used to capture a context and environment for these small but important features.

I don’t think I have any particular taste on venues. I enjoy varying interiors. For example, I was in the lower East side of Manhattan last year in a total ‘dive’ bar; the toilets were covered in graffiti, the chairs mismatched and a floor stained with spilt drinks. It was awesome! In total contrast I fell in love with the luxury of the Hotel de Russie last year (again) in Rome during a late night dinner.


Image 1

Shears Yard © Tom Joy Photography


TSOTA: What made you start the project Leeds Lurking and decide to begin ‘documenting the undocumented’?
TJ: Leeds Lurking was an entirely natural decision for me. My mate Chris came to visit me a few months ago and we decided to go for a walk. I complained that I had barely seen the city outside of the central areas and wanted to see more. At that point I was beginning to befriend a lot more of the local photographers mainly based in nightlife industry. Another friend and fellow photographer, Chris Gribbin and I talked about our interest in UrbEx photography and we decided to go on a ‘lurk’… This started everything! Chris wasn’t even really living in Leeds at this point but we would go out maybe an hour or two before we shot in the various clubs we covered and it was fun to hang out with like-minded people passionate about what they could do with a camera.



TSOTA: How would you describe Leeds as a city?
TJ: The way I talk about it to my friends is that it’s exciting, moving, growing, open and developing. I feel like I thrive in Leeds and can develop my photography and myself in this city at a greater pace. Aberdeen felt like a restriction.


Image 2

© Tom Joy Photography


TSOTA: Is there a genre of photography you would never want to work within yourself, or that doesn’t engage or appeal to you as a viewer?
TJ: There are a variety of portrait photography styles that kill off small parts of my brain every time I see them done but that could become a rant… I have always said that I don’t want to shoot weddings. I have no interest in slipping into that side of the photography industry and I have even less interest in hearing from the thousands of people who do it about the “great money in weddings”. I practice photography because I love it. I’m lucky enough that I can earn a living from it and I sure as hell won’t be jumping to jobs I’m not interested in just because I can make faster cash.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a great deal of respect for those who photograph weddings well and those who enjoy doing it but the business of wedding photography is heavily tainted with negatives for me. However, I must say, and with no regret too I have accepted to shoot a wedding for one of my best friends next year. It’s an honour to me that they have asked and I want to do it more than anything so that I can give them good images. That sounds cocky and I’m anything but cocky but I cringe every single time I read the words “our photographer was terrible” or “a friends son/nephew/sister/brother/pen-pal/friend photographed our wedding and the shots turned out bad”.


TSOTA: What are you doing when you’re not holding a camera? What do you do to relax?
TJ: I’m not good at relaxing really. I have to keep moving and doing things. My relaxation comes from having my camera in my hand; that sounds so art school-esque but my mind is only clear if I’m shooting or I’m doing exercise. If I do get time to relax I love to watch films, listen to music or I go on trips to photograph new places. I want to read more but again, time is never around for me to do so. Leeds Lurking is a relaxation tool for me.



TSOTA: Have you got any projects or ideas in the pipeline that you could tell TSOTA about?
TJ: I really want to put together an exhibit for Leeds Lurking! It needs a little more work and refinement before I could confidently exhibit it but that’s on my agenda before the end of the year. I always have projects and plans on the go though. My phone is full of notes listing shoot ideas, models I want to work with and new places or people to discover.


Image 3

© Tom Joy Photography


TSOTA : What’s your ‘wanderlust travel hit list’ you mention on your blog?
TJ: It’s huge is what it is, haha! In no particular order, except the top ones are being planned for the next few years:

  • Iceland
  • LA
  • West Coast America
  • New Zealand
  • Pretty much all of Europe
  • Isle of Skye
  • Australia
  • Japan
  • Bali
  • Moscow
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Hong Kong
  • South America, mainly Machu Picchu
  • Everest Base camp
  • Nepal
  • Anywhere with wolves and so many more…


TSOTA: Do you have any particular ambitions or goals that you want to realise in your career?
At this time I don’t have any clear ambitions or goals. I only really tell myself to not hold back on any situation… I take everything as it comes. I am never complacent, my ambitions are high and the goals are always moving.

Visit or follow @tomjoyphoto for more of Tom’s work, or browse the links below to find out more about his specific projects.

Helena Roddis




Leeds Lurking:
Places and Spaces – The Alchemist


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