Tom Bird is a gifted young photographer who is using his camera to give a new perspective on Birmingham – and make a name for himself in the creative world of fine art
We pass them every day of our lives and barely give them a glance. Nondescript warehouses, old run-down industrial buildings, angular modern office blocks, dual carriageways plunging into dark unwelcoming underpasses. But Tom Bird doesn’t see them like that. To the 26-year-old Birmingham photographer they are potential works of art, presenting him with an opportunity to turn a picture into a dramatic and thought-provoking canvas. Tom’s vision and talent for seeing the unusual in our city earned him a place as one of only 16 contemporary UK artists invited to exhibit in a show staged by leading fine art publishers Washington Green. As the youngest contributor taking part, his amazing images sat alongside works from much more established artists. “I first photographed Queensway Tunnel in 2009 when it was closed for maintenance,” said Tom of one of his images. “The new shot in the exhibition was when it was closed off again. I knew what I wanted to do and just walked down the road, set up and took the shot. It worked out really well.”
When you see Tom’s work it’s hard to realise that it’s only a handful of years since he graduated from Birmingham City University with an honours degree. And less than two years since he was working for a car dealership in Oldbury. His family is from Wolverhampton and he attended Birchfield School and Oldswinford School, Stourbridge before moving to Birmingham to go to college. “I was originally thinking I would go to Manchester University to study geography,” he recalls. “But a close friend talked me into going and doing art foundation with him at Bournville College. I started playing around with photography and found that I really enjoyed it and had a talent for it. “When I finally left BCU with my degree, I was still trying to decide what I should do with it. I needed to make a living. I worked as a sales assistant in various shops and then I went and worked at Syntner BMW as their first proper car photographer. It proved to be a very strict and stringent with how BMW would allow their cars to be shot, but it gave me a real sense of corporate and commercial work which I still like to do.” Tom says he made the decision to set up his own business because he wanted to pursue more creative avenues with his photography and “I thought I can do this, it can’t be that hard”. He came up the name Infinity Project, got himself a new camera, a website and used the contacts he had been building up to get started earning some money. “I wanted to focus on the creative side of photography and most of the people I was dealing with wanted me to go down that route too otherwise they wouldn’t have been interested in what I could give them,” he explained. It would be a mistake to think of Tom as a landscape artist. “I really enjoy anything around lifestyle,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in design oriented things, like furniture.” He has produced work for a number of local clients, including I Choose Birmingham, Horton Estates (with some amazing ongoing pictures of the renovation work inside the listed Grand Hotel, Colmore Row), Two Cats Kitchen (creatively presenting plates of food), Allied Irish Bank (where he has 44 prints on permanent display) and Resorts World.
But it’s turning photography into pure art that drives him moving forward. He wants to gain a high profile in Birmingham for being known for cutting edge creative work. He also says: “I want to do a pop-up gallery at some point. More needs to be done for contemporary arts space in the city. I want to have my own permanent gallery space where I can exhibit my work with that of other artists. A retail unit but not presented as a shop, or an industrial unit maybe under a railway arch or something. Somewhere artists can showcase their work, with everything from furniture to ceramics and more.” Tom adds: “Photography is very popular now, everyone has a digital DLR, but when I started at uni it wasn’t like that. I am fortunate that I have learned so much which other people are only now beginning to understand.” After wowing the critics at the Washington Green show, he’s now onto his next project. “I’m starting a new creative collection on the different formation of clouds,” he said. The sky truly is the limit for this talented Brummie…