Thomas Tierney

For my project Representation through Portraiture, I decided to use my friend Thomas Tierney, who I know from university, as my subject who I photograph. I decided to get to know him slightly better before I go and take photographs of him, so I interviewed him about his daily routine and how he presents himself. I know what kind of photographs I want to take, one in the studio looking at how Tom presents himself and acts in front of the camera, and the other when he is asleep in his home looking at how he is natural and has no choice of how he is presented to the camera.


Thomas Tierney is 19 and was born and lives in Coventry. He is currently studying Photography at Coventry University; when I asked Tom what represents him, he replied that there are two things that represent him, a camera and a cocktail shaker. These two items represent him as he is currently studying photography and is passionate about it, and he is also passionate about his weekend job of being a cocktail barman; these two objects are also the two objects that he uses most in life. Because Tom has this job and is also a student, he can be seen as having two lifestyles- in the week he is working on his uni work, then at the weekends he spends his days relaxing then working in the evenings, often shifts from 7pm-4 in the morning. Because of these two lifestyles, I feel my two photographs will represent this well, the studio one will present his weekly life at uni where he works in the day, whereas the night time photographs will represent his bar work, where he is working evenings late into the morning.

When talking to Tom, another point I picked up on was that he struggles to get out of bed, he likes being asleep and doesn’t have a precise time that he wakes up, this is due to his ‘two lifestyles’, on uni days he has to be up early, but then at weekends he sleeps in as he has been working late the night before. Even though Tom likes sleep, he doesn’t like falling asleep; this was a weird concept to me and so I asked further about this. Tom told me he finds it hard to switch off, especially after work, where he has been active and on his feet; after work Tom often checks his emails or watches TV as this is a way he can slowly switch off and relax. Furthermore on most nights he often stays awake into the early hours of the morning, he does this as he doesn’t like going to sleep and so tries to avoid it by watching TV or listening to music. Tom told me that he can’t fall asleep in the darkness and has to have either the TV, his laptop or a lamp on; this is because he doesn’t like the pitch black and silence as it gives him time to think about personal issues that are happening to him at the moment, the TV and music offer him a distraction and allow him to get away from that, eventually leading to him falling asleep.

To me that fact that Tom can’t sleep in the darkness seems bizarre as I have to sleep in the dark and silence, however I think that this offers me great opportunity for my photographs. I can take influence from the work of Philip-Lorca diCorcia and his photographic work that I looked at, where he lights his photographs from lamps in the bedroom, and use the lighting from the TV/laptop, that Tom has to have on to sleep, to light my photographs of him while he sleeps. By using this lighting it will give my photographs greater authenticity and mean that I do not need to use studio lighting to light the photographs. The lighting would also highlight and represent Tom’s lifestyle and daily routine.

When I spoke to Tom about his personality and how he would describe himself, he said he was a very outgoing person who tries to get on with everyone. This can be seen in his online profile (Facebook), which I looked at to give me more information on Tom’s personality and lifestyle; in many of Tom’s photographs he can be seen with groups of friends and often very happy, showing his outgoing nature. I feel that his online profile backs up his personality in real life, showing the real him, he isn’t afraid to show ‘ugly’ photographs and his personality by stating his job, where he is studying and also by the pages he has liked.


Even though Tom described himself as mainly outgoing, he said that he is also self-conscious; Tom used to be larger and has spent many hours working on his body, yet he is never quite satisfied and spends 5 out of 7 days at the gym. When I asked Tom about if he were to be photographed by himself in a plain room, how would he present himself, Tom said that he would mainly be serious however would still he self-conscious, even though he is outgoing, he would pull awkward faces to hide his self-conscious side to the camera. Tom said he would also be conscious about how he dressed and presented himself to a large audience, and said he would dress well as this is how he would want to be seen by people. When I do my photo shoot in the studio with Tom, I want to see if he does act like he said he would, or if he changes at all in front of the camera.


When talking about the objects of importance to Tom, the one that stood out to me was his cocktail shaker and Malibu bottle that he practises his bar tricks with. He told me that as the night goes on at work, the cocktail shaker becomes messier and used, but then is cleaned every morning to make it look as good as new. He also mentioned how he often practises his bottle throwing skills, with an empty bottle of Malibu, in his room. This gave me the idea to use his cocktail shaker and Malibu bottle as the objects that represents him; with the cocktail shaker, I see it as a metaphor for his lifestyle, he works hard through the day, becoming more tired, and then in the morning he is refreshed and ready to do it all over again. I plan to take a photograph of the cocktail shaker when it is clean in the studio showing a more commercial side to the object, and then take a photograph at night of the cocktail shakers where it lives, on the shelf, when it is dirty and has finger prints on it showing it in its ‘natural environment’. With the Malibu bottle I will also take studio shots that are more set up, and then natural ones of the bottle at Tom’s home where it lives. These photographs would also echo the photographs I plan to take of Tom, the studio ones are more false and forced as he isn’t in his comfort zone, than the ones at home are when Tom is comfortable and when he is sleeping it is natural.



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