In Flight is a true testament to Tom’s love of candid moments in a surreal environment allowing the juxtaposition to inform his narrative.
Years before the project would take shape, Tom wrote down a goal to explore movement in some capacity. The opportunity for what would become In Flight presented itself when he was commissioned for a project in South Africa taking him to Atlantis Dunes, and the project become something much bigger—a chance to celebrate the triumph and beauty of South African Circus School, a troupe created by founder Dmitri for disadvantaged people to learn the craft.
Tom explains his process to Alex Kahl with WePresent showcase by WeTransfer: “When I’m shooting movement, there’s a lot of interesting bits I can photograph without directing,” he says, “I wasn’t trying to shoot them at the apex of the backflip, it was more the moment slightly before and slightly afterward, when not everything is perfect in terms of expression or movement.”
Instead of being overly prescriptive, Tom simply told them to show him what they could do, and within a few hours the troupe were in full swing. “Looking at the pyramid photo - they were just so excited to show me that,” he says. As they broke off from the pyramid, they all fell and rolled down the dune in perfect unison, allowing Tom a few seconds to snap the perfect scene of imperfection. And that’s the magic in Tom’s work, those in-between moments that provide the most intriguing frames.