Talking skating, toxic masculinity and the Tao with Tom Craft
Hailing from Wagga Wagga in rural New South Wales, Tom Craft, 20, describes coming of age in a deeply conservative and religious environment.
As a “very expressive” teenager, Craft found solace at the skatepark and in the teachings of philosophy.
“I went to a religious high school where expression was stifled, especially for men,” Craft told Southbank News. “To have an environment where you could just muck around, and everyone would support you whatever you were doing was really important.”
Craft’s photography aims to capture the incubatory tension of growing up at odds with society, and the importance of an accepting community.
“I wanted to use my photography to explore the relationship between how this very evangelical Christianity ends up creating an environment where it’s difficult for men to be feminine, or be emotional. Essentially how sports, religion, all relate to this environment of hegemonic toxic masculinity,” Craft said.
Craft, who is studying for a Bachelor of Photography at Photography Studies College (PSC) in the Montague Precinct of South Melbourne, is currently working on a book, Bolton – named after the skatepark in Wagga Wagga. Bolton, Craft explained, was an extended photo-essay about the people he grew up skating with, and the strong sense of kinship they forged despite negative public perceptions of skateboarding.
“Most media representations of skateboarding are super rough,” Craft told Southbank News.
“I wanted to demonstrate that most people just skate for a sense of community. Though [skating’s] not considered an art, it is very much a form of expression. I think the environment of skateboarding where everyone’s different, everyone’s at different skill levels, and everyone’s working to improve themselves creates this very democratised environment where people are willing to help and accept each other.”
Craft’s photography is also intrinsically informed by philosophy.
“I would say that the Tao and other philosophies and aesthetic paradigms like Wabi-Sabi, Stoicism and Buddhism all have a strong emphasis on integrity and reality. I work to apply what I’ve learned to my own practice by engaging in a respectful, considered, and ethical photographic practice with a focus on the present,” he said.
“Much of contemporary photojournalism mystifies and romanticises its subjects. And while there are limits to the objectivity of a photograph, working to represent subjects as close to they truly are paramount to my practice, even at the detriment of aesthetics.”
For Craft, photography, more than an art-form, is also a way of being in the world.
“I think photography for me is a really good way to be present, because you have to pay attention all the time. To me I view photography as an act of mindfulness.”
“It’s almost like an act of noticing.” •