The stars have aligned in more ways than one for British photographer and Talenthouse member Tom Leishman. After taking his shot at the Maroon 5 Photography Invite with a constellation of umbrellas rolling across a field, his initiative was rewarded with a Host’s Choice victory.
Not only did the band personally select Tom to photograph them for their Luxembourg concert, but during the meet and greet they asked for a better look at his portfolio. This in turn lead to the band’s decision to have Tom photograph the entire show and the scheduled three songs.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Tom about his experience with Maroon5 and his career. Read on to learn more!
TH: What was it like photographing Maroon 5 in concert? Did you get to take the shots that you’d planned for or did you wind up adapting to unexpected circumstances?
Tom: Meeting and photographing Maroon 5 felt quite surreal as I am a big fan of their music. I was quite nervous meeting them but I tried not to let it show. I was introduced to them during a meet and greet with some of their fans who had won competitions to meet them, they recognized me apart from the other competition winners and pulled me a side, we got off to a great start!
They all congratulated me on my work and asked to see more of my photography. After they finished looking through my mini portfolio that I had on my phone they immediately they asked me to photograph the full show instead of the original agreed first three songs! I was handed an AAA (access all areas) pass. They asked me a lot of questions about myself, like if I had a girlfriend and what I was doing later that night, at that point I started to feel like I’d made some new friends.
During the show I felt at home, I was so at ease knowing that I had the whole show to photograph! In the huge Luxembourg arena there was a girder catwalk overlooking the whole venue, I recognized the venue promoter walking around backstage so I asked him if my AAA pass would allow me to go up to the roofing girders to take some photos of the whole venue, he seem really enthusiastic about the idea and asked a security guard to escort me up there, my aim was to capture a photo that would be remembered and could separate me from the thousands of photographers Maroon 5 have had in the past, I had to make the most of the advantage I had with this access. At intimate moments when Adam would interact with the audience I would sneak up on the side of the stage and hide behind the sound board to take photos of the band silhouetted by the arena lights, thank god for AAA I kept thinking and thank god everyone could speak perfect English! After the show, we all chilled out backstage, shared beers and chatted about music till about 4am.
TH: You have been working as the personal photographer for the chart-topping British pop rock group McFly (the youngest band to ever have a UK number one, superseding the Beatles’ earlier hold). How did you arrive at this position?
Tom: I was introduced to Dougie from McFly when I was working with the pop band The Saturdays. At the time Dougie was in a relationship with my friend Frankie Sandford, who is in The Saturdays. At the beginning Dougie invited me to a few shows to photograph them live on the odd occasion, as time progressed I found myself going away on tour with them becoming McFly’s personal photographer. Since then I have had the privilege to have been the photographer behind the website press photos, tour brochures, posters and the 2012 official calendar. So word of mouth basically, I’m very fortunate!
TH: Following your initial collaboration with McFly, you went on to work with the band’s bassist Dougie Poynter and his clothing company, Saint Kidd. Could you describe this work and the experience of focusing on apparel as well as photography?
Tom: Through working with McFly Dougie and I have gotten to know each other quite well, we both share similar views on a number of things, having a similar dress sense and style has always been a reoccurring topic. Dougie was midway through setting up a clothing label named Saint Kidd, naturally I was interested when he approached me to be involved, immediately we started to collaborate on themes, ideas for styling and photo-shoots. I know It seems to be a reoccurring trend that members of popular bands start clothing labels to make a quick buck out of their fans, but thats not the case with Saint Kidd because Saint Kidd isn’t going to be a brand that with no effort prints on cheap simple products without any thought put into them, every inch of every product Saint Kidd produces is custom cut and designed inch by inch, we take so much care and attention to detail and the process of having an item made can be a long process, sending them back and forth from the designers and factories but it’s to make sure it’s the best we can offer! Saint Kidd clothing is original and I’m proud to wear the products and I’m glad to say I’m involved. Since Saint Kidd launched other than help operate Saint Kidd and build the brand I’ve photographed the fashion look-books and photograph the products for the website.
TH: You’ve mentioned that your winning submission for the Maroon 5 Creative Invite was originally taken when you were 19, “in a field in the middle of Cannock, with a £2 Ikea umbrella,” but clearly the photo has a lot going on. You depicted a field full of umbrellas, which at some points seem to be uplifted by flocks of birds. What was your process for this photograph?
Tom: Here’s the recipe I used to create the image: 1 camera, 1 tripod, 1 umbrella and one hell of a lot of running around. I would set the camera on a 10 second timer mode and then I’d run away from the camera throwing the umbrella up into the air, safely looking like a lunatic! Fortunately, no one but the local cows and horses could see me! I would then go home to edit away on photoshop. I do think by sharing this takes the magic away from it and they say a true magician shouldn’t tell their secrets! Not many people have guessed correctly how I did it. Since then, with my better photoshop and photographic knowledge I have re-created a new series of umbrella themed photos which I prefer much more they can be found on my website now.
TH: What tends to inspire your photography the most?
Tom: I know it’s generic and overused but anything can inspire me, I’ve created a folder on my computer desktop called “Things that give me ideas” so every time something inspires me or sparks an idea I save into that folder for when I’m in need of a good idea. I also use my phone to save notes when I have an inspirational spark as they can be triggered off at anytime! It’s always good to record your ideas because you’ll never forget them!
TH: Could you describe a couple of especially memorable photoshoots (and could you share the photos from those shoots)?
Tom: I think my most memorable photo-shoot to this date would be one of the set ups from the McFly’s 2012 Calendar shoot, when I put the band on 9ft wooden ladders in the middle of a big lake! I had to hire two lifeguards to help me do the shoot, they swam out and placed the ladders where I wanted them to be, they then escorted each band member individually out to the ladders without them getting wet on a tiny rubber boat. They then had to push me out in the rubber boat to take the photos! The photos came out exactly how I wanted them to! I couldn’t have done it without the lifeguards and the trust from the band! The risky cost of trying to do something creative and original, totally worth it!
TH: Are you interested in creating works in any other media – music, film, etc.?
Tom: I’ve recently started to direct music videos and I feel i’ll eventually step into short movies, documentaries and then possibly films, but I’ll always be a photographer first.
TH: Do you have any insights for Talenthouse members looking to maintain a stable career as well as their creative inclinations?
Tom: I believe there’s no wrong or right way to maintain a successful career in the creative industry, what works for me might not necessarily work for somebody else, so I’m unsure if it would be correct for me to list everything I’ve done to help me reach where I have gotten in my career, which isn’t that far! – I still have a lot to learn. I think as long as you’re happy and you love what you’re doing thats the important thing, so obviously passion with a pinch of luck is the key ingredient to success, if you’re passionate about what you do that will be the thing that picks you up when you’re doubting yourself, and that will be the same thing that takes you where you aim to be. So here’s my corny ending like R.Kelly said, “If I can see it, then I can do it If I just believe it, there’s nothing to it.”