All images and text by Thomas Oscar Miles. Used with permission.
I am Thomas Oscar Miles, a Fine Art / Fairytale Photographer based in the West Midlands, UK. I juxtapose beauty and darkness, showing how they can work with and against each other in a world filled with magic and wonder. I began by taking self-portraits in local woodlands, but began to grow the confidence to shoot with models, a make-up artist, and designers to help bring my stories to life in ways I couldn’t do alone.
I create with a Nikon D610 and my go to 50mm lens that I’ve used since I started 6 years ago! Equipment doesn’t define my work (but a shiny new 85mm lens wouldn’t hurt!). The reason I create is to express a part of myself that would only sit within me, I hope to share my experiences in ways that can help people and inspire them to know they’re not alone. I love being able to build connections with people I otherwise wouldn’t, making lifelong friendships based on dressing people up and running around in the woods!
We are united in our humanity, and being able to share kindness with one another truly unites us. I hope that my photography is a way of bringing people together — it has helped me talk openly about something to my family, to go out into the world, and to live as boldly as possible. So, I am incredibly grateful to be able to pursue what I am passionate about, and to share that openly and wholeheartedly with everyone.
Why did you get into photography?
To explore parts of myself that I couldn’t express otherwise. I began greatly admiring fashion, theatre and painting as art forms, so I found that photography was a beautiful way of capturing all three of these things in one! I was never very good at dressmaking — but I did make a killer parrot-inspired corset! I never had the time to paint, and I was too scared to pursue performance, but photography allowed me to express myself limitlessly and dream bigger than ever before.
What photographers are your biggest influences?
Brooke Shaden was one of the photographers who started me off; she is the kindest soul in person, as well as one of the most original and most daring creatives I’ve seen!
Tim Walkers’ visuals and detail-filled work deeply inspire me. I am keen to create works as abstract and thought-out as his!
I am finding more recently though that I am more inspired by paintings and the visuals of renaissance paintings and sculptors, as well as theater and film.
How long have you been shooting?
Since 2013! I began at school around the age of 16, so coming up to 6 years. But I feel as though I’ve only just found my style these past couple years. I am always learning and still feel as though I am growing and improving wherever I can.
Why is photography and shooting so important to you?
Because it is such a universal, diverse way of communicating. It’s where I can be the most open and can tell stories that I feel need to be told — ones of past pain and future hope.
Do you feel that you’re more of a creator or a documenter? Why?
Past me would answer this as I was a documenter, capturing what I saw around me, I suppose a part of that past Tom is still within, in that I get a lot of my inspiration from seeing things and wanting to capture them. As simple as that! But now, I’ve come to find that I am most passionate about creating new realms to live in, where things are not as they appear, whilst documenting where I am in that time and how I am feeling. This is how I feel I stand out; capturing a surreal take on the real world, for others to see a more abstract way of how they may be feeling too.
What’s typically going through your mind when you create images? Tell us about your processes both mentally and mechanically?
I usually get a burst of inspiration, usually when I’m about to fall asleep! I will either write it down in my phone or draw it in my notebook that follows me around everywhere for those random moments! I think about what I want to capture and what I want to get across to people: What’s my story? I always try to shoot so I get the best possible photo in camera, but will pre-plan what I might need to do on the day of shooting in terms of photographing things that would need to be composited in later in Photoshop, and what editing tools would need to be used to get the final image I envision.
Want to walk us through your processing techniques?
I will shoot my main plate shot, and photos around the space in order to expand my frame — this allows me to be able to print later and share higher quality photos. I then add any surrealist elements like giant props and any technical changes to meet the final vision. I then tweak the image to tidy up any unwanted details, and then use curves to change the lighting dynamics and colors. The final step is to open the image in Lightroom and layer filters and color changes to create the final look.
Tell us about the project that you’re pitching, or your portfolio.
My portfolio is a collection of stories, ones that speak of hope and light. I love photographing long dresses and delicate characters in dark, enchanting locations — these characters always inspire me because they may seem vulnerable, but they carry a deeper kind of strength. My photos also have whimsical elements intertwined. I am deeply proud of my portfolio as each photo has a part of myself inside of it, if you wish to really get to know me. I highly recommend looking through my portfolio.
What made you want to get into your genre?
My love for darker, dramatic visuals. I love films like Black Swan, Hugo, Loving Vincent, and The Shape of Water. These have shaped how I want to see and what I want to create for others to see. My work draws from my love of the stage and the beauty of a dark, empty space, filled with a life changing performance. This is how I love to see my work like: a blank space, filled with a story that would never have existed had it not been for my courage to create it.
Tell us a bit about the gear that you use and how you feel it helps you achieve your creative vision.
I use a Nikon D610, 50mm lens, a Nikon delay remote and a tripod. I very rarely stray from this although I am keen to expand as my business grows. I don’t define my work by my gear as I prefer to focus of my concept and why I wish to create.
What motivates you to shoot?
My love for life, the beauty every single day holds, and the magic we can fill every moment with. I want my work to outlive me, to speak volumes beyond anything else I could have done. I hope to continue growing and improving as I dare to create deeper and more fulfilled, sharing that with people that hope to live in the same way.