We Chat to Notts Photographer Tom Quigley About His Brand New Exhibition at Make It Easy Lab

Photos: Tom Quigley
Interview: Nathan Langman
Wednesday 08 February 2023
reading time: min, words

Our current Photography Editor, Nathan Langman,  sits down with our former Photography Editor, Tom Quigley, to chat all things - well, we imagine you can guess... 


Hi Tom, thanks for having me ahead of your exhibition here at Make It Easy Lab. For context, what’s this exhibition all about? Some of the images look familiar, but they aren’t quite what they seem are they, especially with the bridge and Jesus? What’s going on there?
Hey, thanks for coming! My new solo exhibition Atlaô is a small body of work I shot around Azores and Lisbon, Portgual. Those two focal points you mentioned are both found in Lisbon - the 25 De Abril bridge is like a smaller cousin to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge (which, incidentally, I also photographed a lot last year), as they were designed by the same company. And the 'Sanctuary of Christ the King' 360ft tall monument, watching over Lisbon from Almada, was inspired by Rio De Janeiro's 'Christ the Redeemer' statue. Lisbon is a really interesting and beautiful city, and one I'll definitely go back to!

I think it’s fair to say you’re most known for your excellent skate photography (at least to me) and documenting/championing the local skate scene. However, you’ve recently been embracing natural environments, street and light, particularly on this trip to Portugal but also your time in San Francisco. How have you found the stylistic changes? Do you think one complements the other?
Absolutely - my biggest passion has always been the combination of skateboard photography and documentary photography from within the Notts skate scene, which I've been doing solidly for the last decade. My landscape/environment work - which I always struggle to define (is it topographical? Or just the 'ordinary, everyday?') - is a change in subject that I've actually been practicing and developing on trips abroad from as early as 2016, the year I got my Hasselblad and started shooting medium format film. Most of the early images still haven't been seen! During the COVID lockdowns I brought this style home and documented all around where I live in West Bridgford - producing a zine with the results.

I love shooting in a completely different way, it's like another tool in your belt when you know how you could document something as simple as a building or light hitting an old fence, for example - plus it adds a new dimension to your experience of the world when there are more situations that will catch your eye and prompt you to want to make a photo. Before I documented West Bridgford this way, I had wrongly thought I could never shoot this area as it's 'too nice' round here, and therefore not visually interesting. And I distinctly remember thinking once that I would never shoot photos of people that weren't skateboarders, as those images just wouldn't be of interest to me - which, of course, I've since disproven. Horizons expanding, and all that.

I look forward to sharing some of my San Francisco images, my trip there in 2022 involved a mix of styles and formats - so it'll be interesting to see if they complement each other or work better as different bodies of work.


These images are all shot on film. Have you found the slower, more considered shooting style a help or a hindrance in this type of work?
If anything can force you to be more considered, it can only be a good thing, right? The medium format stuff, certainly - as I only get twelve shots per roll. But then again, it's a tricky balance - in some respects, you need to shoot as much as possible to improve (always the best advice for people new to photography!), but it does help when you're trying not to waste too much film and you're forced to carefully find the best angle of a scene. That being said, I always keep a 35mm point and shoot camera in my pocket, and with that I'm less precious over taking a punt on a shot - if it doesn't work out, it's not such a big loss. And sometimes it allows me to catch gold.

You may be thinking that if it's the cost of film I'm worried about, I should really just shoot digital - but I can't get around the notion that images I get on a digital camera would simply not be as interesting as their film counterpart. I'm not sure if it's the aesthetic (or lack thereof), the fact that it's too easy, too diluted, too likely you'll come home with thousands of images to have to edit, or what. I use digital for skateboard photography as it's the best tool for the job, but I think I will always favour the results from film when capturing people and places.

I remember when I began to take photography seriously, you were in my position at LeftLion, and when you accepted my first set of images for Notts Shots I was so stoked. Since then you’ve moved on, how does it feel to be on the other side?
Yeah, I did a few years as a LeftLion Photo Editor, and it was great fun. It's always key to have those roles that can open doors for people, and often those in that position know how impactful it can be on an individual to have their work published for the first time, because they've been there themselves. Hopefully young, budding photographers, writers, artists and so on will always be spurred on by their contributions to publications such as the mighty LeftLion! Now that I'm focusing on other projects, it's still great to have that connection with the lovely LL team and be able to help make a rad issue of the mag for Nottingham by chipping in a photo or article every now and then. And if I get to shout about my latest exhibition, zine, skate or photo project, then that's always hugely appreciated!


Speaking of moving on, what are you up to now?
I was always working a day job as a designer whilst doing LeftLion photo duties, but I knew early last year my time would be needed for other creative projects, particularly when I disappeared to San Francisco for two months! Since getting back I've been busy doing Skate Nottingham work - something I'd always done in my spare time, but am currently able to do full-time. Skate Nottingham is a non-profit organisation that does a vast array of work to raise the profile of skateboarding as a positive, healthy and creative activity that contributes to Nottingham's social, cultural and economic development. In the latter half of last year, we successfully funded the new skate-friendly space at the foot of the Nottingham Contemporary steps - part of the Broadmarsh redevelopment with Nottingham City Council. This spot is a landmark achievement not only for Nottingham's globally significant skateboarding culture, and the legacy of the 'healthy street culture' once present in this location at Broadmarsh Banks, but also for urban planning and community-led design in the UK. Shoutout to our friends at Betongpark for their work on this and other projects in Notts recently. Since this spot was completed in December last year, I've been kept busy planning events and taking care of all things creative. Lots to point a camera at!

I know there’s a zine and some other bits that accompanies this exhibition, so tell us a bit about those, and how we can get our hands on them.
Yeah, I've published a 36-page zine of this work, plus a set of four postcards with some of my favourite images - these are both available to purchase at the exhibition. Having published plenty of zines over the years, it's usually my go-to when I've got a body of work I'm happy with, and want to put out into the world. I'm stoked to have paired this one with an exhibition this time - it's the first time I've exhibited this kind of work! I have to send a massive thankyou to Dan & the Make It Easy crew for having me in their gallery space this month. All of the framed images on the walls are available to buy for a reasonable price as well - limited editions that are already being reserved!

Finally, where can we find your work and do you have anything else coming up that we should look out for?
My work can be seen on my website, and I post lots of offcuts on Instagram at @tomquigley. I have lots of plans for 2023, including another hundred zine ideas! I've also curated a new exhibition for Skate Nottingham which will go up on the walls at Tram Line Spot sometime in spring - look out for that. Cheers Nathan!

Atlaô can be seen for free at Make It Easy Lab (18 Queensbridge Road, NG2 1NB) during regular opening hours throughout February

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