Fine Art Photographer
by Benji Smith
He has the word serenity tattooed across his back, between his shoulder blades about two inches below the nape of his neck. The characters are drawn in a simple serif outline and countless summer afternoons bleaching under the Southern California sun have left them pale and blurred.
In a single word, the whole throughline of a life's meandering thread.
Tom was born a twin on the Pacific shores of Alaska some five decades ago, give or take. At the age of six his family relocated to a villa in Italy and he spent the better part of the 1960s running through the streets of Rome, chasing through the vineyards in the countryside and playing in the shadows of the city's amber sky. In the evenings, to the rhythm of music that seemed to emanate from everywhere, his parents would roll up the carpets in the living room and the whole family would dance together.
In this setting, submerged in the beauty of the paintings and the murals and the statues and the cathedral ceilings, Tom developed a deep appreciation of the delicate beauty of the human form. And with a tiny, simple instamatic always in his hands as the family traveled through Greece and Turkey and Western Europe, he learned the basics of photography; capturing the images that would form the basis of his lifelong aesthetic.
As a very young boy, in the warm and welcoming atmosphere of his grandparents' rural home in Southern Idaho, with the fragrances of coffee and pipe tobacco filling the air, his grandma Amy put a crochet hook into his hands and taught him how to make hats and scarves out of yarn. Sitting on the porch, breathing in the quiet afternoon glow and overlooking the countryside, they would laugh together, enjoying the simple pleasure of their craft. The legacy of crocheting gifted to him by his grandmother is with him to this day and is at the heart of his Pussy Cap adventure.
When the sixties drew to a close, Tom's family returned to the states where he finished high school and went to college on a music scholarship. But Rome has a heartbeat of its own that can be felt from across the oceans and he returned to those cobblestone streets again and again over the subsequent years.
Just shy of his thirtieth birthday, Tom left Rome with his ex-wife and infant daughter for the beaches of Hollywood where he established himself as a professional photographer. For more than twenty years now he has worked with dozens of international film actors and models and produced unusually intimate images.
In the mean time Tom now has three grandchildren, two of whom he delivered himself, just as he delivered their mom back in the early eighties.
After a long sabbatical Hollywood is once again home. Though the heartbeat of Rome still throbs in the Mediteranean and though Tom still visits often to catch up on lifelong friendships or to indulge in wine from seven-hundred year old vineyards, it’s always good to be back home with both feet planted firmly on a beach somewhere in Laguna.
From the water's edge, the serenity is unmistakable.