About Tom Olsen
I've been a photographer for as long as I have memory both with and without a camera. Without a camera I began storing images and scenes I came upon which appealed to me in some way, something I continue to do to this day. Very early on I had no conscious recognition this would lead to anything in particular. I was simply content in that the experiences associated with my observations were pleasing and intriguing all at once.
I grew up in the rural hamlet of Verplanck New York on the banks of the Hudson River and as the crow flies about one hour north of Manhattan. I graduated high school in 1962, enrolled in an engineering science undergraduate program for which I was barely prepared and left after two semesters. Somewhat disenchanted I worked various jobs over the next two years and in July 1964 packed my bags for an adventure in the US Army. I was honorably discharged in June 1968 after serving four years in Southeast Asia. In the fall of 1968 I returned to college a much more focused student. In June 1972 I was awarded a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Pace University in New York.
Over the course of thirty years since earning a Bachelor' degree I've gained extensive experience working in a variety of mainstream business disciplines including public accounting, finance and tax auditing, sales, marketing and new business start up and development. In December 2002 I resigned my position of Vice President and General Manager with a major cable television operator in Broward County Florida to pursue a full time career in photography. Those who have had the most influence on me and my style include Manual Alvarez Bravo, Henri Cartier Bresson, Helmut Newton, Robert Capa ,Diane Arbus and Walker Evans. I began a serious study of the craft in 1997 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond Virginia and day to day with any working photographer who would stand still long enough for me to inquire.
I've always had an insatiable curiosity with people's changing expressions as they go about day to day occupying the private space which surrounds them and the visible effects arising from the most subtle changes in their stature one moment to the next. The slightest movement of the eye, the position of a hand, a change in posture, all register in my mind with curiosity. I believe the progression from one moment to another is taking place in response to their connectedness with their private library of stored memories and images all the while precipitating a corresponding change in how they seemed to occupy their private space. What are they thinking I wonder: can I afford to put my child through school, will I be prepared for my next corporate presentation or something as prosaic as do I need to buy milk.
In addition to the representative works seen in this web site my true passion lies in documentary photograph, street photography and oral histories as it is in these arenas I find truth and meaning in the natural ebb and flow of daily life. Faces most certainly depict underlying stories. Capturing the stories with respect is the next step which requires a thorough understanding of proper protocol when approaching the subject all the while without turning the action into something contrived instead of spontaneous and in the moment. It takes practice, courage and a level of comfort to get close. When people are the subject there is no alternative except to become immersed fully in their culture. This is the only way I've discovered to establish trust.