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  • Camille Basso

Tom Leighton's photographic deconstructions, beyond the possible

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

Abandoning the constraints of possibility and logic are the watchwords of artist Tom Leighton. His urban and natural landscapes, sometimes fluorescent, sometimes deconstructed, naturally encourage the eye to enter an imaginary world. Nevertheless, his works remain firmly rooted in reality, presenting us with other perspectives.

Artwork The Umbrella City Lakes by Tom Leighton
The Lakes of Umbrella City, by Tom Leighton

Photographer and printmaker Tom Leighton was born in London in 1981. After studying at Brighton University and the Royal College of Art, he exhibited his work in several galleries in Paris, Tokyo and the United States. In fact, his unique photographs won him the John Purcell Paper Prize and the Thames & Hudson Book Prize in 2006.


"My photography is very exploratory, I don't really plan photoshoots," he explains. "But I'm constantly trying to find original architecture and urban landscapes. Then I improvise interesting viewpoints and use the structure of buildings as tripods for my camera. This kind of experimentation leads to unconventional perspectives and, combined with digital work, gives my photographs an illusory depth".


Indeed, Tom Leighton travels extensively to create his work, in ancient cities as well as highly modern ones such as Hong Kong. He relies on iconic buildings and monuments as much as on less touristy areas. "In this way, I give viewers a floating view of my work, as if from an elevated, almost dreamlike perspective. The aim is to give them a sense of dissociation that prompts them to reflect on urban splendor, in simultaneous conflict with the almost paranoid effervescence of our contemporary society," the artist details. These unique perspectives question viewers about the way we live in these urban spaces. But they also provoke reflection on how people adapt to the ever-expanding and ever-changing city.


Nevertheless, despite the bias of his work, Tom Leighton draws us into extraordinary vistas marked by their beauty. Indeed, he claims to seek Beauty in all things, from urban buildings to highly crafted monuments. His work focuses on motifs that are usually overlooked, and repositioning existing structures to create a contrast between the natural and the artificial. "In my work, I have total control over the construction and twisting of urban spaces. I worry little about physical foundations and create structures that completely defy gravity. What's more, I make sure to use several sources of natural light to highlight the conflict between shadows and a very realistic luminosity. All this allows me to conceive ambiguous eras and, in so doing, to play with the viewer's gaze and mind. The viewer can no longer really determine what is real or not, what makes sense or not. My photographs are a deconstructed and distorted version of reality", says Tom Leighton.

Artwork Kynance, by Tom Leighton
Kynance, by Tom Leighton

More natural deconstructions

Recently, Tom Leighton has been looking at natural landscapes and the possibility of deconstructing them in his own way. Once again, this change is a contrast in his work itself; this time between the inherent power of nature and its fragility, its constant impermanence. This new observation of the world around him is, once again, a subtle questioning on the part of the artist. He highlights elements, manipulates and abstracts certain areas, in order to focus the viewer on details they might not otherwise have noticed. The complexity of a leaf, the superimposition of a bird's feathers in flight or the volcanic power that has formed the rocks on the coastline. Through Leighton's work, these natural elements become both inevitable to the eye... and profoundly surprising. As with the urban landscapes, this work bears a mark of surrealism and the imaginary, taking us beyond the realms of possibility.


Artwork The life of plants at night, by Tom Leighton
Plant life by night, by Tom Leighton

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