Philippe Starck’s personal photographer for ten years and long-time collaborator of Ingo Mauro, Tom Vack is also much in demand by designers to immortalize their pieces - Michele De Lucchi, Ron Arad, Marc Newson, Massimo losa Ghini, Alessandro Mendini, Aldo Cibic and Antonio Citterio were among the first, followed by many more, including Luigi Colani, Andrea Branzi, Rodolfo Dordoni, Stefano Giovannoni, Toshiyuki Kita and Satyendra Pakhalé. He also works for a great many companies who have entrusted him with the image of their products – from furnishings by Classicon, Driade, Flos, Luceplan, Magis, Moroso, Veneta Cucine, Venini and Vitra to motorbikes, cars, clothing, shoes, bags, yachts and timepieces by leading brands.
After completing his studies at the Faculty of Architecture and Design at the University of Illinois Chicago Circle, he started working as a self-taught photographer, working on the annual catalogues of numerous companies. He left the United States for Europe in 1987, splitting his time between Germany and Italy before settling definitively in Milan, attracted by the city’s buzz.
He has always said he “wanted to make an object in a picture rather than a picture of an object,” repeated rather like a mantra. His photographs really are actual portraits, in which what really stands out is the manipulation of light. Light that emerges from the dark, harnessed artistically to highlight the intimate nature of the object, from its shape to its materials. His particular use of shadow and chiaroscuro, his oblique takes, his unusual frames and depth of field evoke his childhood passion for American films noir of the Forties and Fifties. His images also reveal his fascination for Man Ray’s photographic surrealism, and the art of László Moholy-Nagy, author of the first fundamental work on photography published by the Bauhaus. The urban landscape of his birth city, Chicago – known as the “windy city” - with its sudden changes of light and vertiginous depths, is undoubtedly a subliminal influence in his compositions. There’s no trace of nostalgia in his images, just space for his subconscious and the things that remain etched into his heart and soul.
He has broadened his artistic vision and aesthetic research over the last decade, combining his design photography with the OPenEYe Art Project: a new (for him) interpretation of reality, unfettered by restrictions or boundaries, creating artistic images through overlappings of places, people and objects. Labyrinths of marks, storylines and colors.
Tributes to him include the exhibition Vanity of Object. Tom Vack Design Photography at the Neue Sammlung in Munich in 2014, and the docu-film Drunk on Light. An American Photographer in Milan, by Ester Pirotta and Emilio Tremolada, shown at the 2016 MDFF/Milano Design Film Festival.
Tom Vack photographed Michele De Lucchi’s architectural work at Expo Milano in 2015, triggering a path of experimentation and honing a sophisticated process of creating panoramic photographs, which he has perfected over the years.