Tom Wallace, the drummer for Red Riders and now Palms (he's above left, with bandmate Alex Grigg), is opening his first solo photographic exhbition tomorow night at Mart Gallery in Surry Hills. After stockpiling 70,000 images and enough rolls of film to fill a fridge, Tom thought he'd better develop and exhibit them. He's selected his favourite images of inanimate objects that were taken on the road and in-between shows over the past 12 years. We wpoke with Tom about taking twice as long to get anywhere, having hundreds of photos of the same thing and the dream of owning a two bedder.
Lucy Jones: If you had a website, what would your bio say?
Tom Wallace: Hmmm, my bio should say, "Tom Wallace, a man with no actual memory of his own, set out on a laborious attempt to record his every visual impression. He joined band Red Riders in 2003 primarily so that he could take photos out of the aeroplane window, only to discover the band could barely even afford to drive (cue 18,000 photographs of the Hume Highway). He spent the next eight years avoiding getting his learner's license so he could continue shooting regional Australia out of a van. Tom dilly-dallied around Sydney, always taking twice as long to get anywhere due to inclement 'visual potential'. He enrolled in a part time Masters of Fine Arts, and after five years of procrastination faced up to the editing situation from hell."
So you're a musician and photographer, does one fall under career and the other under hobby?
They both fall firmly in the red, I'm afraid. In our booming heyday Red Riders reached the fiscal heights of breaking even, but even then I never received a wage and so would never call the band my career. Career gleams of earning potential. I will keep making art and music for life, but it's a long way to the top if you wanna... put a deposit on a two bedder in Greater Western Sydney. When I'm earning an income from something, I'll indulge in describing it as my career.
You have taken 70,000 photographs over the past 12 years — according to my calculations that’s 15.9 photographs a day! Does that sound about right? Have you photographed anything yet today?
No, not today — yet [laughs]. I do take photographs most days, but it comes in fits and starts. Looking through my old photos I'll have rolls and rolls of the same cliché streetscape, and then just a shot in passing of a subject with so much freshness. You really don't understand the stimulus your brain is responding to until you can look at it all in hindsight — that's what exhibitions like this give you the chance to do.
Let's talk about the rolls of film in the fridge. Do you have any late night/early morning near-death film-eating experiences?
No [laughs]. All that film was taking up a lot of space, so eventually it moved into its own fridge. It was tricky to keep in chronological order, and there were a few messy surprise defrosts, but mistaking it for Yakult or something has never happened.
What can we expect to see at your exhibition?
Well, the show will feature around 40 of my best shots of inanimate objects, selected from my first 40,000 colour photos. These photos are some of my favourites and remind me of my American loves: Ed Ruscha, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore.
'An Exhibition of Photographs' runs until June 16. Mart is located at 156 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills.
Main photograph: Rene Vaile
All other photos by Tom Wallace