‘Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist’ R. Magritte
Have you ever wondered what the history of art would be like if the great painters such as René Magritte, John William Waterhouse or Gustav Klimt lived in our times? What if they knew how to operate the modern camera? Do you think they would still be eager to paint on canvas if they had mastered the different, elaborate techniques of digital art such as processing and retouching the photography so it looks like a painting?
R.Magritte, ‘The Great War’, 1964,The Magritte Museum, Belgium
‘Cogito, ergo sum’- I thought to myself – convinced of the need for a further investigation. The questions disappeared when I came across on the Internet the captivating artworks of Thomas Dodd, visual artist based out in Atlanta, US whose art encapsulated the art of the masters I’ve just mentioned.
©Thomas Dodd, ‘Carried Away’, Galerie L’Oeil Du Prince, Figurative Art Gallery, Paris, France
Whenever I looked at the female figures presented by Dodd there were few things that kept catching my attention. The artists endless admiration for his models. The dreamy atmosphere he created. The fact that he made me believe in a mystery that could be discovered only through attentive contemplation of his artworks. Initially I thought that what makes one stare at ‘photo-paintings’ by Thomas was the mixture of meticulous observation and of dreams achieved by means of half tones and the special technique of processing. But as I learned later – there was much more that makes one admire Dodd as an visual artist– what cannot be seen at the first sight. What mattered to me was ‘the real artists’ behind the art that I loved. I wanted to unfold who is behind the symbolic photographs that look like paintings, presenting ideal female beauty that makes you think that art has said its final word.
©Thomas Dodd, ‘The Tempest’, 2009,model – Chelsea Reuter
As I learned later, the moving compositions of the ‘Celtic Ancestor’, his very striking aesthetics, high sensitivity, almost obsessive admiration for female beauty and undeniable striving for perfection turned out to be only few of so many attributes that he shared with the great masters from the past.
©Thomas Dodd, ‘Maybe Someday’, 2005,model – Jong Fletcher
When I started to read and learn about this contemporary artist, the first thing that struck me was the huge number of very active and emotionally ‘engaged’ fans who commented and shared his work on social media. The reactions on followers posts, that very authentic need to ‘be in direct touch with the audience’ impressed me a lot. Therefore I decided to try my luck and arrange an interview with Dodd – as there were still so many unanswered questions that appeared in my head, after the long online research.
First of all I wanted to know what were the factors that caused a certain transformation in the artist’s life. In fact ‘Thomas Dodd Professional Musician’ a composer, harp player and band leader after 25 years of being involved with ‘the world of music’ has chosen a very new, different path, turning into ‘Thomas Dodd Fine Art Photographer’.
– ‘When I was around 13 years old my father, who had always been a very loving and strong figure in my life, introduced me to photography as he was a hobbyist photographer.’ stated Dodd, looking at me with his big eyes that expressed both intelligence, warmth and sympathy- ‘Although I don’t think that my Dad ever wanted me to pursue photography professionally because he grew up during great depression and that generation wanted their kids to do better than them. They didn’t want them to become artists, because according to cliché thinking being a professional artist is closely related ‘to struggling’. When I was about 15 years old I wanted to become a musician. That choice actually impacted the relationship between me and my father and it took many years for my Father to understand my decisions. I didn’t go to college and the punk-rock lifestyle wasn’t something that my Father approved of.’
‘If I look back at my life from that time’ – Thomas continued – ‘I see that there is so much I learned and now implement in my current career. The music I produced was ‘underground’ as it was connected with the gothic scene in the ’90. As a matter of fact, back then there was no Internet. Instead, there were these self-produced Magazines or newsletters which were the vehicles for me and my band to build ‘underground networks’. Having said that, we actually sold a lot of the cassettes and CD’s through the mail. It was very much an old model. People saw a review of us in a magazine, sent a check to our P.O. box, and based on that we processed orders. That allowed us to achieve a level of success that most bands never have. We had a fan base and we were able to put out records and tour. So my career as a musician was a very valuable learning experience that I use nowadays as a Fine Art Photographer.’
©Thomas Dodd, ‘The Head Full Of Clouds’, 2012, Private Colletion
– ‘I have noticed that your Facebook Fanpage is full of life. How important is in your opinion ‘The Social Media Part’? – I asked the artist next, trying to understand what are the ‘success factors’ of visual artists, apart from the ‘obvious’ ones such as possessing talent and an eye for beauty.
– ‘The popularity of my art could be pretty much attributed to social media.’ – answered the photographer in a way that convinced me that he must really know what he is talking about – ‘Sadly enough that was something I could not really use and enjoy in my career as a musician. So now I can just sit in my studio, post pictures online and remotely reach an international audience. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. There is a saying – people don’t buy art, they buy the artist.’
Gustav Klimt, Danae, 1907, Privately owned, Austria
Thomas Dodd, Organum, 2014, – Model Hilary Schmidt
I smiled, hearing these words that were so true, capturing the essence of what’s behind the scenes of the career of so many artists in different artistic fields. Getting yourself a name, having the right exposure – that today is called ‘self-branding’ is extremely important in order to be recognized as an ‘established artist’.
Modigliani,Portrait of Dedie Hayden, 1918 Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
©Thomas Dodd, Queen of Hearts, 2010
As we moved forward in our conversation I wanted to find out what, according to Thomas, was the biggest difference between being a professional musician and a professional visual artist?
-‘In truth, the same kind of energy I used to create music, I apply to the photography. Moreover, the similarities go far beyond just the creative realm. All the other things such as promotion, the marketing part, dealing with people, trying to get shows, I’ve learned it’s all the same.’
-‘But there must be a reason’ – I interrupted Dodd with the heart full of curiosity – ‘ there must be something that made you decide to devote your time and energy to the visual arts instead of music that has been the biggest passion of your life for such a long time.’
– ‘Don’t get me wrong.I still love music – replied the photographer seemingly understanding very well the intention of my question. ‘- In fact being a professional musician was very fulfilling and rewarding. Although no matter how much fun and joy it brought to me, an important part of it was being in a band. That meant also that you have to depend on other people. If somebody starts pulling back, the band would suffer. As a matter of fact I still like and enjoy interacting with other people, collaborating with them, but I do not have to depend on them. What I am doing now allows me to be very independent. Freedom in the profession of fine art photographer means I can work with whomever I choose. I work with models but I’m not beholden to them and vice versa. The same rule applies to galleries. I work with many different galleries and when one show ends, I move to another one, since galleries always look for new artists to show. That grants me the independence and freedom that I need being an artist.
Renee Magritte, ‘The Castle Of The Pyrenees’, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
©Thomas Dodd, ‘Expecting to fly’, 2010
(c) Thomas Dodd
-‘And when we talk about models, your muses’- I continued eagerly, hoping for another interesting answer – ‘how does that part look like in your case? How do you choose them. What that cooperation look like?
-‘I prefer to work with models that are motivated to work with me.’- replied Thomas- ‘Usually we agree on a mutually beneficial collaboration that is based on symbiosis. In return for modelling I allow my models to use my photos in their portfolio, and that works perfectly. To be honest with you I am quite picky and selective when it comes to who I want to work with. When I first started I would work with almost anybody who was interested in a shoot – as I thought I needed the experience with different kind of looks and different people. But now I mostly work with a small select group of ‘travelling art models’ and most of them are excellent. Whenever they come to Atlanta – we try to arrange a shoot. Occasionally I also work with local models – and we do an impromptu session. But just as mentioned before – I’d rather not have not that many shoots in a year. I am all about quality – not quantity.’
I was very pleased to learn so much about this American artist in such a short time. There was just one more thing I really wanted to ask, since all that we create is impacted by the ones that we admire and follow.
-‘If you had a chance to make friends with one of the ‘old masters’ and one of the contemporary artists – who would that be?’
-‘As per modern art –I would most probably go for Jan Saudek from Czech Republic. He is a photographer just like me and he’s been very influential on me, so I would learn a lot more from a photographer than I would learn from a painter (although obviously I do learn from the painters and I do think like a painter).
(c) Jan Saudek, ‘Valerie’
If I had a chance to talk to one of the ‘Old Masters’ I would like to talk to Caravaggio, and ask him how did he get such photo-realistic look to his paintings.
I must admit that Thomas answer was music to my ears – especially the part mentioning the Italian Master whom I recently ‘visited’ during my travelling to the past centuries. When my interview with Atlanta artist was finished I could not stop myself from thinking that our life is indeed full of mysteries. Every single event – just like according to the theory of ‘ the Butterfly Effect’ does impact and shape our future. If it wasn’t for Magritte, Waterhouse and Klimt – the art of Dodd would have been totally different. On the other hand – if those great artists lived today and decided to become Fine Art Photographers instead of painters, they would most probably want to learn from the very talented ex-musician that I had the pleasure to talk to. When I was thinking about it – I pictured Klimt living in 21st century, switching on his tablet and watching Dodd’s webinars on the Internet about processing images and making them look painterly. One thing was sure – regardless of the century, media and techniques used – art and the artist keep evoking the mystery without which the world would not exist.
To learn more about the art of Thomas Dodd – please visit his official website:
The limited prints of Thomas Dodd artworks are available for sale at: