Portraits of people are notoriously difficult to do well. Humans are complex and nuanced and carry history and personality on their faces and in their eyes. The elusive well-done portrait will give a glimpse at someone’s story and leave the viewer wanting to learn more about the who and why of the individual.
Encounters is a book of such portraits from photographer Tom ‘TBow’ Bowden. The color photographs were taken in cities that include Houston, New York, New Orleans, and Los Angeles, as well as rural locales. Bowden writes about being drawn to street locations where he says, “the commotion is, that’s where the people are, and that’s where the images wait like presents.” As a result, he discovers a wide array of people, reflecting a wide array of circumstances.
Some of the photographs are accompanied by brief captions that give insight into some aspect of the person he has photographed. All images include a location and date to provide context and another layer of narrative—this is America, we are all unique, we are all here together.
At the beginning of the book, a quote from Bowden reads, “If you look through the lens long enough and hard enough, wonderful things will appear.” It’s the ‘hard enough’ part that implies an open and willing sensibility unique to Bowden, a sincerity in wanting to know, and in that way to honor, the people he photographs. His photographs his do not appear voyeuristic, but rather curious and authentic in his commitment to photographing people with respect.
Documentary photographer Maggie Steber contributed an essay entitled “Shooting from the Heart” for the book, and she notes that his photographs are as much about him as they are his subjects. She writes,
“TBow’s interest is genuine and respectful. He makes friends, and when you read what he has written about himself you understand that these people and the act of photographing them is his oxygen his, his reason to get up every day to be on the streets with the heroes of his photographs. He is joyful in what he does. He is not a hit-and-run photographer. He is recording life.”
Tom (TBow) Bowden is a street photographer based in Texas. His love of street photography began in his early teens and continued in college while studying photojournalism and working at a local NBC Television Station. When he was 15, TBow saw the Diane Arbus, “Child with Toy Hand Grenade” photographed in a High School Library Book. After that, there was never any doubt. He was obsessed. TBow’s work his as a photographer and producer have taken him around the world. His current work his can be viewed on his website his http://www.tbowphoto.com/about.
Tom “Tbow” Bowden: Encounters: Portraits of Americans
112 pages; 45 Color Photographs
9.5 x 11 inches