Over the course of his sixteen-year career, Tom Hussey has become one of the most successful commercial advertising photographers in the country. His passion for photography began in the early 1970s when his dad got an “expensive” SLR camera. Tom asked to take a picture with it and, much to his mother’s horror, his dad handed it to him. Since then, he's never been far from one. In addition to his commercial shooting, Tom has taught photography at the college level in New York and Texas and worked in the Conservation Laboratory at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House. Respected industry-wide for his lifestyle photography and admired for his lighting techniques, Tom's worked on accounts for a diverse range of clients on local, national and international levels from his full-production studio in Dallas, Texas.
If you have a degree in what field is it? I’m a 1987 graduate of Southern Methodist University where I earned a BFA in film production with a minor in photography. I also received an MFA in photography and museum practices, with an emphasis in photographic conservation from the acclaimed School of Photographic Arts & Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology.
What was your strangest assignment? It’s a toss-up between photographing a monkey and a kangaroo (crazy weird) and photographing an internationally famous singer for one of the big three American car companies. Originally we were to have two hours with him at a hotel ballroom the day before his concert in Tucson, Arizona. Unfortunately it wound up that I had only four minutes with him as he walked from his dressing room to the stage for his concert. The agency and the client were there in force—with layouts—and I was to photograph him in different poses, which included one of his signature moves. He refused to do anything I asked. I exposed eight frames of film, the final two of which were of him walking off my set with his hand covering his face. I couldn’t believe it but the clients were happy with the way it all went.
Which photographer would you like to meet? Even though I have no real desire to be a news photographer, and really would not want to cover wars, I would love to be able to talk with Robert Capa and hear his stories about photographing—the D-Day invasion in particular.
What famous person (living or dead) would you most like to photograph? Thomas Jefferson.
Aside from your camera and lighting, what item could you not work without? My producer. She’s amazing.
Is there anything you would not digitally retouch? I can’t think of anything. I work in advertising; it all gets retouched in some way.
From where do your best ideas originate? Creative ideas come from all kinds of places. There are so many ways to see and interpret light.
How do you overcome a creative block? By changing direction. If I’ve been working in a very technical way, I’ll change direction and use only my iPhone for awhile.
Do you have creative pursuits other than photography? I’m passionate about other things, but I would have to say that photography is really my only creative outlet. It is enough.
What music are you listening to right now? One of the Hotel Costes compilation albums.
What’s your approach to balancing work and life? That’s a constant battle with me.
What’s your favorite quote? “Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.” —Thomas Jefferson
“Every other artist begins with a blank canvas, a piece of paper. The photographer begins with the finished product.” —Edward Steichen
“Every ten years a man should give himself a good kick in the pants.” —Edward Steichen
“Photography is a major force in explaining man to man.” —Edward Steichen
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? WORK. Once you're done with that, WORK some more.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? I wish I’d known that this is what I was truly supposed to do. I spent a lot of time in graduate school so I could teach photography at the college level—which I did—and during that time, I discovered the advertising side of photography. I haven’t looked back.