Seasoned photographer Tom Epperson talks about taking risks and doing what you love.
This is an excerpt from Lifestyle Asia’s June 2023 Issue.
Since 1985, Tom Epperson has treated Manila as his home. With his constant craving for adventure and art, he went from the world of animation to photography and fell in love with the latter. Epperson–now a well-known photographer with clients like Philippine Airlines, Ayala Corporation, Nike, Amanpulo Resort, Sofitel Hotel, and many more–also stumbled, fell over, and experienced the hurdles of life before becoming who he is today.
THE RAW FORMAT
Epperson was born in Ohio but grew up in California. When he was 11 years old, he was given a camera but would not begin studying photography until he reached the age of 17. Epperson talks about his humble beginnings when he would just get his camera and shoot whatever it is he saw, “There’s a lot of freedom when you don’t know the rules.”
As a kid, his parents never took him to art galleries which is very much different from today because both of his kids are very exposed to different forms of art. He explains that most of his shots were “just for fun,” and that he rarely took photos with people because he used to be an introvert.
During his 20s, Epperson wanted to be a photographer but he was too afraid to walk away from animation. While on his way to work, he read an article about Catherine Leroy, a French-born photojournalist, and war photographer, whose life story inspired him. That night, after doing animation for 14 years, Epperson instantly decided to quit, “My boss was like ‘really?’ and I said ‘if you don’t mind, I’d like to quit tonight and leave,’ he was so angry so I walked out,” he explains.
He went from making great money to no money because in order to land a job as an assistant in Australia, he had to have a background in photography, “You have to show them photographs, you have to let them know that you know what you’re doing. It was so hard to get a job, really hard.” During his first year after quitting animation, he hardly had any money left, “I lost my girlfriend, I lost my house, but I loved what I was doing.”
A FLASH OF LUCK
Almost a lot of things came by chance for Epperson. “I got to the Philippines, I was in an elevator, I heard two girls talking about how they needed a photographer in their company, and I just happened to have my portfolio with me so I said ‘I’m a photographer.’ So the next day, I was interviewed and I got the job,” he recalls.
For Epperson, one of the hardest parts of being a photographer is that he sees young ones who are just like him but do not see their worth. His message is simple—find somebody who likes their work and someone who will help them, “The nice thing about assisting is you’re actually getting to learn how to deal with a client. And you’re meeting clients, that’s a benefit. You learn and learn because there’s a language you have to learn. And you’re only gonna learn it if you’re surrounded by people who will help you. It’s really the best way to actually get into the industry.”
Read more by purchasing a copy of the Lifestyle Asia June 2023 magazine via SariSari.shopping or select newsstands in National Bookstore and Fully Booked. Subscribe to the E-Magazine via Readly, Magzter, and Press Reader.
Photos by Tom Epperson.