Tom Young – “Timeline: Learning To See With My Eyes Closed”


A (darkly) Delicate Balance


In Tom Young’s superbly designed and printed new book, “Timeline: Learning To See With My Eyes Closed” he presents a series of images that incorporate the fundamental elements of both photography and design. Color. Scale. Balance. Proportion. In the 60 images included in the book, Tom combines his objective and nonobjective photographs into a single, harmonious composition displaying his refined mastery of the visual language.

That said, Toms images are not just examples of striking design, they are visual tone poems that posses an abundance of emotion. To me, this emotion is markedly dark and pensive. Many of the images (even though they were shot in color) give the immediate impression of being rendered in black and white. The greens and blues are minimal, often hidden in large areas of black and grey. The palette is dark, but the images have an intense, otherworldly beauty.

The images are mostly vertical in format and give the viewer a sense of gazing out (or in) a window. His framing of the photographs with solid black heightens this impression. Tom plays conspicuously with the scale of the photos. Some photos command a large portion of the overall image, while some are hardly noticeable at all. In each of Tom’s pieces, the photos are expertly composed to create an elegant balance of image, design, and introspection.

From the GFT Publishing website:
Timeline is among the most poetic photographic projects to emerge in the art world in years. For many of us, the photo album is a way to preserve memories of personal and family events that are worth noting, worth sharing, worth saving: pregnancies and birthdays, day trips and child’s play, time with our pets, friendships and reunions, portraits of our house and garden, and even scenes of spirituality and despair caused by news of cancer. Each album thus becomes an archive of who we are as a person, as a family.

Tom Young has taken this old idea and created a new genre: visual fiction. Using iconographic, layered images to tell his story without the usual tools of vivid contrast, bold colors, or sharp, finite detail, Young’s visual assemblages are personal and evocative, sharing a complex internal landscape of love and loss, seen as through a shadowy veil. Here, then, is a marriage of landscape and portraiture that suggests not only a visual narrative of the photographer’s life, but also, through the power of memory and shared experience, the reader’s life.

When Young was only ten years old, he had a medical procedure that left his eyes fully bandaged for weeks. Without sight, all of his other senses changed. Despite the darkness, he would imagine the world around him and the power of light as it relates to memory. In Timeline, one senses that the artist is seeing his entire world unfold before him like an end-of-life dream recollected in a few split seconds. One image leads to another, building in nuance and subtlety until we come to understand, as if by way of a sixth sense, how the little details of life create a larger retrospective. “If pictures could talk, what a tale they might tell.” That thought lurks behind every image of Young’s masterful visual story of a life: his? yours?

Just the Facts:
Timeline: Learning To See With My Eyes Closed
Tom Young
9 x 12 in.
 128 pages, 60 four-color photographs
GFT Publishing

Photograph above left and below:Susannah’s Eyes, 2008
You can see more of Tom’s work here.

Susannah’s Eyes, 2008

Turn of Events, 2010

Pulling The Shades, 2010