Name: Tom Archer (although it’s pretty much just Archer, half my mates don’t know my first name) Age: 25 Location: from Sheffield but have recently re-located to Liverpool Zodiac sign: Aries
When did you start taking interest in photography and what inspired you to start taking photos yourself?:
I guess about 16, I had a shitty digital point and shoot that I used to take to DIY gigs in Sheffield and take really over exposed, light trail, horrendous looking photographs of all the punk bands that were around at the time. That was my first proper go at taking photographs, and I thought I was the shit. Looking back they were a joke, but i got the feel for it and pretty soon ditched the digital and bought a Canon A1 and a Yashica Electro 35 which I enjoyed so much more. I think the one thing that inspired me the most to always carry a camera around is when I didn’t even think to bring one along with me when I went on my first ever tour in 2008 with my band from Sheffield, Big Difference. Such a shit move, as there is nothing from that tour apart from the memories, but then again…some of the stuff that happened, it’s probably for the best.
Since then I’ve got a pretty vast library of images and photo books that I’ve collected that constantly inspire me to go and do stuff. I met Jim Goldberg and Paul Graham a few years back, 2 of my all time greats, their work is a constant inspiration to me. I also had the pleasure of hanging out with Sandy Kim when I was in NYC last year, her work is incredible and her publications were also some of the earliest in my collection.
A good amount of your photos are candid shots of characters that you’ve run into on the street, or at shows. Have you ever gotten yourself into trouble with this, or do people generally not care to have their photo taken?:
I tried to get a shot of a guy in SF just off the tenderloin strip. He was wearing a snakeskin suit with a mental toupee wig outside a dollar store, as I went to take it a fucking mental hard looking bastard stepped into the shot and he thought I was taking his photo. He threatened to “wrap the fucking camera round my neck and snap my fucking throat”, and started to follow me and my mate across the street. We sheepishly gathered up pace and swerved him in the heart of the tenderloin. It was a bit of a change to getting snapped at by old woman in the suburbs of Sheffield, still….good laugh like!
When I’m taking photos of characters or at shows, either they are too pissed to notice or I’m too pissed to care what’s going to happen. People in the US generally seemed to be more open to their photograph being taken (apart from on the Tenderloin), when they noticed me, rather than in England; when any excuse for a meathead to kick you in is kindly welcomed.
Tell us a bit about your upcoming show in Liverpool:
Basically all these images are combined from 3 separate trips to the states that I made last year. Some were from a 2 month trip on the west coast, others were from two different tours with my mates band Eagulls. Guess it’s the start of something that I want to continue over a period of years, this is just the start – kind of summing up a whirlwind 12 months of traveling and my experience of the US. Chaos, beauty and bleak are the words I’d use to describe the work and how I felt during my time out there.
I guess the images speak for themselves really, saw some dreary shit when I was out there but also some incredible stuff as well. Went to some amazing gigs, and met some fucking weirdos. For me personally this is just the basis and start of something big that I want to continue.
I haven’t had a show for a couple of years so this is a good way to get back on track and exhibit some photographs that I hope people will enjoy and want to see more of.
Your favorite photo from the series and why?:
My favourite photo from this series is probably the shot of the guy with the flowers in the middle of a gig. It was either in Seattle or Portland, can’t remember, watching Lecherous Gaze and this guy just appeared out of nowhere floating through the cloud, totally unfazed, trying to sell his roses. It was like he was tanked up on valium or something, the way that he seemed completely oblivious to what was going on around him. I took a few shots, but this one is my favourite because of the way that the guy is framed. Dead weird!
A lot of your photos also of course feature your friends, Eagulls, who you’ve been accompanying on tour for the last year or so. How’s life on the road with your mates? Any favorite stories to share?:
I’ve been out to NYC with Eagulls twice now and it’s been absolutely mental. The first time was for CMJ which was so hectic, they played about 1000 times in a week and we got up to some right antics…I kind of went along to photograph the week for them so they could have some photo’s for their blog, and also did the rounds for Impose magazine who did a feature on them. We generally just acted like idiots, me and Henry got arrested for drinking on the street (didn’t know that wasn’t cool over there) it didn’t help that we were doing it sat right outside a police station…I guess the stand out story (and highly reported story)to tell was when we went back out in January. They were playing the Letterman show and Bill Murray was the guest. Tom Kelly got Bill’s name tattooed on his arm a couple of nights before and the plan was to show Bill and try and get a photo. We’d all pussy’d out speaking to him, it was pretty bizarre as Bill was dressed as Peter Pan the whole time and his PA was with him constantly, but right at the end Tom went up to him, Bill kissed the tat, and I got a mint photo of them flexing muscles together. One of the most surreal moments and best photos I’ve ever taken.
Gatecrashing a “food taster’s” penthouse apartment in Manhattan on a Wednesday night while she was watching “Who wants to be a Millionaire” in her pyjamas, and letting ourselves in to her her hot tub whilst it was snowing was also pretty unreal as well.
How did your first trip to America hold up to your expectations?:
I went out to America in July last year with 2 close friends of mine, flew to Seattle and headed down the West Coast ending up in LA. I went with the intention of buying loads of records, taking hundreds of photographs and generally having the best time ever; which is exactly what happened. The overall friendliness of people was one of the stand out features, Portland especially. We just floated around, meeting people, taking their photographs and just tried to take in as much as we could with the time we had. Olympia was a strange place, we basically just went bowling every night as there wasn’t much to do, but it was one of the most successful places for photographs.
The poverty situation in San Francisco was a real shocker though. I’d heard some things about it but really didn’t expect some of the things that I saw. The first day trying to find our proper rotten hostel (I left the place with a lovely portion of scabies ) we had to literally step over a homeless guy passed out on the front porch, balls hanging out, head inches away from a human turd….not the best sight to see at 7am.
Apart from where we were staying, SF was amazing. I’m a big fan of Fecal Face so it was cool to check that gallery out and knock about the suburbs. Wasn’t really into walking across that bridge, but I guess it had to be done.
I have some family up in Grass Valley, so it was cool to go and hang out up there and get out of the smog. Went to some ghost towns and drove through Reno – a place I’d love to go back and just stand on a street corner watching stuff. I saw a guy driving a Camaro eating a raw cabbage like an apple in Reno, that’s the kinda stuff I wanna see!
The first trip makes up most of the images in this group of photos I’m calling a project, some might see it as glorified holiday snaps, which It kind of is, but I think they work as a set and I’m happy with em either way.
In a digital age where even finding stores with 35mm film in stock is becoming an increasingly difficult and increasingly expensive task (in America at least), what draws you to stick with film photography?:
In the UK we are kind of lucky, because pretty much every £1 shop (99cent store) stocks Agfa film for £1. That’s where I get mine from, unless I’m doing something more serious and want a nicer film, then I just order it in bulk from Amazon or Ebay.
I use film because I love to hand print, when I can get to the facilities to do so at least. All my idols have used film, I guess I’m just so used to it and enjoy it that much that I have no reason to change, no matter how much it’s going to cost. The tonal qualities are nicer, the colours are more authentic and I just enjoy it more really. There’s not a filter in the world that can make a digital file look decent, I took some digital photos in America and they just look weak in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, digital camera’s are useful though and I use one nearly every day for my job, but I’ll never make the switch permanently.