The chances are that if you're a member on PurplePort you've heard of Thomas Holm, or at least seen a couple of his photos. His images have appeared in the Front Page Image Collection a whopping 279 times, and if you've somehow managed to miss them... well, head down to your nearest opticians for an eye test. You can spot his photos by their natural grace, the elegance of the willowy or toned subjects, and an engaging landscape or setting.

Personally, what drew me to Thomas Holm's work was the genuine appreciation of the human form, in particular, the female form, which is clearly apparent as he captures the essence of his models' inner goddesses and turns them into living art.

So without further ado, here's what he had to say about himself and his work.

Tell us a little about yourself Mr Holm, who are you and where are you from?

I Thomas, am a middleaged perpetual dreamer who cares about making the world a little bit more beautiful, believes in treating people properly, and having a positive emotional impact on the people I interact with.

And I love to shoot nude images.

I was born and raised near Copenhagen in Denmark where I'm also based these days. 

What led to you having a career in photography? I can see from your profile notes that before you took beautiful art nude portraits you worked as a professional photographer in the advertising industry, tell us a little about that and how you've arrived at where you are today.

Around the age of 13 I discovered photography, started developing images and then was smitten. The magic of taking someone's image and see it appear as a memory frozen in time appearing in the developer under the red light worked me like an addictive drug. Some years later by brute force and just plain refusing to take a repeated no for an answer I managed to find an apprenticeship as a photographer. Just to give an idea about it, of the 6000 people who started the general graphical arts education who stated they wanted to be photographers, around 35 landed an apprenticeship, and 24 came out the other side 4 years later. 

I was pretty good at it, and quickly started working independently and pretty much did for the next 15 years under various photographers and eventually my own company. By then I had shot world wide published advertising for silverware, beer brands, plastic bricks, lingerie etc. You can probably guess some Danish brand names from this. I'd shot freesheets for supermarkets and everything in-between.

But then I lost the spark. Advertising is a tightly controlled somewhat less creative occupation than most people realise. The people who pay interestingly enough also want to decide.  I got tired of that and I lacked challenges so I started shifting my focus on Color management and built a career within that niche in about 6 months and stopped photographing.

And for the next 6-8 years I didn't shoot a single image. I tried to get going with something creative a number of times but always ended up with the killing questions: What's it for (leading to 'who is the target audience, what's the demographic and their interests and how do I sell something to them in the most efficient way'). I ended up deciding I wanted to shoot portraits, landscapes or art nudes.

I more or less managed to combine these three genres in the end.

You have a clear style and appreciation for the human form, the models in your images are made to look like living, breathing sculptures. Would you mind sharing some of your drive and inspiration for capturing your models in such a way?

I've always loved sculpture and I love Women. In my photographically dry years I was looking far and wide for a reason to create images. And I figured out that I love women on a far deeper place than I had realised before. I'm attracted to their femininity, strength, vulnerabilities, emotions, stubbornness. And possibly like most other men, I'm fascinated by the female body, although as you can see in my images it's (with few exceptions) not about sex. It's more about grace, seduction, strength and anatomy and this is where the sculpture part comes in.

I find women to be an infinite source of inspiration.

What's the best thing about doing the work that you do?

Photography for me is a hobby these days but the best part is to be able to interact with so many lovely creative women. I find many especially art-models to be a special breed where you quickly get to know people and work together towards a common goal: To create something timeless and beautiful. I must say though that I like the entire process from shooting and working with composition and direction and creating an image that works on an emotional level, and then process and retouch it all the way to the end to further refine the message or theme I'm trying to convey. I have a lot of experience in editing and I know it's an integral part of the creation process - and can elevate a good image to something extraordinary when you know how. I've actually also made a complete retouching course for download.

What do you look for in a model, and how would you select one for one of your photoshoots?

I'm privileged in regard to models in that I'm approached by a lot of amazing models who want to work with me. And I'm extremely grateful for this but my main problem is that I will have to turn so many down. I mainly look for charisma, something unique that I feel will etch itself on the sensor and enthral me when I get the right and expression right. I prefer to work with models who can express themselves in various ways and even better if they can do so with their bodies.

I find dancers are uniquely qualified for this as a large part of dance tuition is about expressing emotion through movement.

Availability is equally important. I really have very little time to photograph and it's hard for me to plan a long time in advance so the availability of people is always an issue. I have several models I'd love to work with but  I'd need to book them 3-5 month in advance and my life unfortunately just doesn't permit that. 

I see that you run your own workshops, can you explain what kind of thing you have on offer? 

I feel a huge gratitude towards photography. I have accumulated so many amazing experiences through photography and I want to pass that on. Quite frankly I can make a lot more money just doing my day-job but I like to teach and I like to inspire other people. My workshops are not shoot events, they are about learning.

I teach people the things I have learned and systematised through my life. Thing like how to compose an image so it will force people to look at it.

Look at the number of my FPI's and the ratio to my uploads. Then consider if this is just luck or perhaps it's because I have figured out a formula that works?

Another thing I teach is how to light a model. And contrary to popular belief it's never about the equipment it's about understanding how light behaves and how it looks good on a body, again there are some easy to grasp rules but you need to understand and see to be able to apply. But I'll teach concepts and principles so my attendees will be able to work with any light source, regardless of whether it's light from a window or a construction light from your local DIY shop or a flash. The type is not interesting, it's what happens when you move or turn a light and how that changes the light on the model.

And finally I teach people how to direct and communicate with a model so you get to whatever it is you are trying to achieve. And because it's a global society I've made some of this into online tutorials.

I guess in essence I teach people skills which will enable them to create beautiful images, that people will actually stop and see.

It's a joy for me to see when 3-4 photographers who were at the workshop get FPI awards some weeks after the workshop. It means they have understood and implemented what I've taught them.

Since I frequently have people coming back 3-4-5 times it either means I'm really bad at teaching or that people like what I do and feel they will learn a bit more every time. Also, I'm thrilled that people from all over the world visit my workshops. On my next workshop, for example, I have people from California, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, UK and Denmark attending. 

Do you have any advice for budding new photographers out there, or people thinking about a change in direction?

For people who want to get into nude photography, the challenge is frequently money or intension. If you want to shoot nude models because you feel it's easy to hook up with them just forget it. Art-models are ordinary people who frequently have boyfriends, husbands etc and they don't get turned on by being naked and they don't generally appreciate being hit on by photographers.

If you just like photographing nude women the challenge for many is that booking models seems expensive initially, you will not make money on it.

Like playing Golf.

Both expensive hobbies.

So it's tempting for many to opt for TFP (Time for Pictures or trade shoots). The problem with this is unless you are a really good photographer with a proven track record and some really good images professional models won't work TFP with you, because you likely will not be able to offer images that are useful for them.

So you can only work with amateurs, which may sound ok, but the images you will get out of it will not be fantastic and won't bring you any further. Assuming the model doesn't flake on you.

But this is a really long discussion and I get asked this so often I've actually made a 3-part series mail in my newsletter (which is all about photography btw.) that explains how to get going in detail, what it takes to make it, and the pitfalls many encounter.

You can get a free copy on tiny.cc/findmodels

How has PurplePort helped you?

There are four things I particularity appreciate about PurplePort, in random order:

  • I love the social aspect and community exchange such as competitions as well as the latest uploaded sections, it makes it possible to get exposure for people who haven’t yet accumulated too many followers.
  • The location and references section are great when researching models (or when models research me). I find it hugely beneficial to have an idea where people live and whether they are generally in good standing.
  • I like that it’s possible to share uncensored images - it seems to be one of the last strongholds in this neo-puritanical world we live in.
  • And that you can both access images without having an account and make a fully functioning account for free. 

You also mention in your profile notes that you have two published books of some of your favourite images, could you tell us a little about your most recent one 'Venus on Mars', and where people can find it?

In 2016 I met a model, Roarie Yum and we got chatting about travelling and shooting. Since visiting the American southwest many years before I had always wanted to go back and photograph there. So I arranged two 2-week springtime trips in 2017 and 2018 with 3 nude models, Roarie, Sekaa and Willa.

UTAH, in case you didn't know, have a place called MDRS (Mars Desert Research Station) because, well, it's probably the closest thing we have to Mars on earth.

Since I was travelling with 3 goddesses I found it fitting to name the book project Venus On Mars.

It was an amazing trip, and amazing project and the result is awesome and to many people very emotional, several people have told me they shed a tear when they leaf though.

In any event, it's 216 pages of female grace, fragility, strength, supportiveness and empowerment, juxtaposed against the hauntingly beautiful deserts on the Colorado plateau. And then there is a complete explanation on how I planned it, cast the models (right now someone will think "how can afford to pay 3 models to travel for a month"), the challenges, and the entire selection process, editing and publishing process. I simply asked my rather large Instagram following what they would like to see in a book like this - and then put it in there.

I used Kickstarter to finance the printing of the book and sold more than 500 books even before it went to press. 

The odd thing about something like this is when I work big projects for a long time I start doubting myself. Start to wonder if the images are really good, or if I should select some other ones, if editing work, essentially just big-time self-doubt. 

When the book was published though I have had som many positive messages from people who are deeply touched by the images and many many glowing reviews. I think the reviews are rather more informative than what I can say myself being objective over your own work is challenging if it's possible at all.

The book, workshops, online tutorials etc is available at shop.commandoart.com

If you want to follow me on Instagram I'm @thomasholmphoto

Mange tak Thomas for taking the time to answer all my questions! I hope you the reader enjoyed this interview, please by all means share the love via comments in the comments section below, smash that love button, and share this article with friends.

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