Tom Nagy Finds All the 'Lost Animals'
This planet is covered with life. From the deepest depths to the highest peaks, whether we can see it or not there is life. From sharp-clawed bears roaming the arctic to tiny microbials in the searing waters of deep ocean vents, there’s life everywhere. As humans we’ve actively removed ourselves from the life cycle of the planet, building our own cities far away from the rest of life on Earth. It makes us forget who we share this planet with sometimes. But what if there was a way to remember? Tom Nagy was confronted with this idea once while flying high above Alaska and it inspired his ongoing series ‘Hidden Animals.’ “I was flying in a helicopter over Alaska and the landscape was incredible but I didn’t see any animals there,” he says. “Even with the sun shining and flying hundreds of kilometers, there were no animals. I was missing the animals, and I thought how would the animals look there?” His series explores this question by bringing animals into the human space and creating images that challenge our ideas of how the line between humanity and animal life is drawn.
Tom is known for his broad and brightly saturated images created for clients like American Airlines, Exxon, and Infitini, but he wanted to make something entirely new for Lost Animals. A thematic break wasn’t enough, he wanted to have a more foundational change. So, he looked at color. “I chose black and white because I didn’t want it to feel that contemporary,” says Tom. “I wanted to give them a more timeless feel. I wanted to separate them clearly from my commercial work in a way, because there’s always the color, always the clean, creamy colors in my commercial work. This is much different.”
We’re not going to give away how Tom makes the images happen – we don’t want the magic to be lost – but the locations he picks each have a unique purpose. For instance, the image in Rio with the zebras is a very popular spot in the city, and really does jut up against the wild jungle. “Many people go there and it’s crazy because on the left-hand side you have the city, a very dense city, and on the right-hand side there is a really super wild jungle. It’s really there,” says Tom. “And when I was standing there I wondered how would it be if these zebras came across the border for a moment. This is that moment.” Those moments, and the potential for those moments, are all around us. Even when they’re not there, even when we don’t see them, we can imagine that they’re there. We can imagine that our relationship with nature has not been entirely lost, that it’s just beyond the scope of our vision. And these animals, lost or found, help us see what it is we can’t already see.
Tom Nagy Gets a Bird's-Eye View of International Forces
Part of the magic of modern convenience is that few of us scarcely have to consider how all these amazing things arrive at our homes. We go to the grocery store and pick up fruit and vegetables grown on the other side of the world. We dress in clothes made in lands where they speak languages we’ll never understand. And our gas tanks are filled with fuel that has to be shipped all the way to our shores. Each one of these is a huge international undertaking and Tom Nagy recently got a peek into how it all happens. He was recently invited by Exxon Mobile to photograph their tankers as they sailed around Singapore and photograph these floating giants in their nearly natural habitats.
From up high, the ships take on a global context. We see them as a part of a bay, weaving through tiny archipelagos under a massive sky painted by swirling clouds. The waters churn in their wake, and tiny building dot the horizon, a remembrance of the people who are served by this system. But out on the ocean, above the tankers, there’s a silence and a reckoning from this quiet power that cuts through the landscape.
Producing a shoot like this is awe-inspiring. These ships handle millions of barrels and weigh untold tons. They’re not human models that can be posed at a moment’s notice. But Exxon knew they had to support Tom to get the pictures that they wanted, so they made all their resources available to create the right look. “We’ve been flying over three days to get the shots we wanted to achieve. We’ve had a port navigator at our basecamp all day who scheduled the specific wanted ships and ideal flight times for us,” explains Tom. “That was quite an amazing operation...”