Interview With Tom Till

Some people say that a place picks you. Moab was the place that picked Tom Till to explore, photograph and become one of the photographers who would eventually bring it to people’s attention

Tom, you moved to Moab, Utah where you now make your home from Iowa. What brought you to this desert environment initially?

I discovered Moab as a preteen on my way to California with my parents. Some people say this place picks you, and it picked me right away. I came back many times and, after college, I moved to Moab to explore the nearby wilderness and used it as a base to explore the Four Corners and Western Colorado Mountains. The people who know Moab now wouldn't have recognized the place then. The backcountry was deserted and wide open – no permits, no crowds, it was nirvana. I'm so lucky I got to spend those years here when Grand Junction was considered to be the end of the world. Also, I was the only serious professional landscape photographer here for a long time. It was a small town where everyone knew everyone else. Now I don't know anyone.

Other than the amazing canyon country landscape, what other factors prompted your interest in photography and informed your early artistic vision?

I don't have a photography background. My degree is in English. I had been inspired in college by Eliot Porter, Philip Hyde and David Muench, and I thought it would be fun to try to shoot images of all the magnificent and little-known places I was visiting. At some point in 1975 I decided to try and make a living from photography and saved up money for a 4x5 camera. I really stuck to that mental commitment. I captured some good images with that camera right from the start, even though I had no idea how to use it. There were no workshops in those days. I took some college extension courses but nobody really knew how to operate that camera. Eventually, I made up my own system, which seemed to work fine. My early artistic vision was the same as it is now. I love my subjects, I am curious and I am willing to spend a lot of time to get what I want. Some images are pre-planned right down to a storyboard, while others are gifts I grab from the earth and sky that I could never have envisioned.

You began your career using film. Do you still use film?

The change to digital from film was a no-choice item for me. After over 30 years of carrying around a huge, heavy backpack, my body could not take it anymore. Honestly, now I don't know how I did all that hiking and climbing, let alone dragging it though every airport in the world. I don't think it's immodest to say I took a ...

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