Born and raised in Vancouver, Theresa Thomas developed an interest in photography in her teens when she was involved with black and white photography taking, developing and printing her own photos in a bathroom darkroom set up by her father.
Arriving in Halifax in 1976, Theresa attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and completed a Bachelor of Design Degree in Environmental Planning. Her elective courses included a black and white and colour transparency course in photography, both of which she truly loved.
In the early 1980’s, Theresa completed a major black and white photography documentary of the NIP (Neighbourhood Improvement Program) I, II, and III areas in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The program which included improvements to streets, parks and the Residential Rehabilitation Program which provided funds for upgrading of houses took place in the late 1970’s. Theresa’s documentation of this work was completed in the early l980’s.
In late 1999, Theresa took up photography from a more serious point of view studying Miksang photography with Michael Wood in Halifax. Miksang means ‘good eye’ in Tibetan and the focus of the course was to develop one’s eye and think about what was being seen in terms of colour, light, texture, pattern and looked at elements such as water and clouds using the photograph as the medium to examine these elements in more detail and in all their various forms.
A significant component of Miksang is the ‘heart’ connection and Theresa was able to find that aspect of her heart which connects with the photographs she takes. For her, the true essence of a good photograph is the one in which her heart connected with what she saw and that the viewer then connects in the same way with the image.
Theresa describes this heart to image connection thus:
…when seeing something that made me go ‘Ahh’ or ‘wow’ or ‘oh’. When those things happen there is a real connection between me and the object, person, image that I am photographing. The ultimate goal is that when you, the viewer, look at the photograph, you will experience some of that feeling and have the same depth of experience as I had at the moment that I took the photograph.
The study of Miksang derived from the work of Chogram Trungpa, a Buddhist leader in North America for many years. who taught and expounded the concept of Dharma Art. I have also been influenced by Wherever You Go, There You Are. Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zin which clarifies the essence of this photography – to be aware, fully present and connected every moment of your life wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Consequently, my camera travels with me most of the time. My photographs are things that we see every day of our lives. Most of my images are urban in nature or very local/intimate -- inside my own house or my car or where I am shopping. I do not usually go out to search for a photograph or an image. It usually connects with me in my normal daily course of activity. Of course, I might go to the beach and take photographs there, but that is mostly because it is a lovely day and that is where I want to be, not because I go looking particularly for beach photographs.
Reoccurring Themes and Ongoing Projects
In September of 2001 I started a series looking out the North West Arm aspect of the Halifax Harbour. This is primarily because every morning when I drove my daughter to school, I was stopped, captured, awed by that view as I was driving around the rotary. I thought, ‘gee, I want to capture that’ and then from that came the decision to do a daily photograph out the Arm. Of course, it is an hour later once my daughter is dropped of and by the time I get back, some time has elapsed. The sky has changed. There is some regret about that because the skies an hour earlier are often more spectacular.
Initially I couldn’t figure out which view made me stop and go ‘ahh’, so I had seven viewpoints and was still trying to work out which view was the correct one when November came along and the municipality hauled in all the wharves and piled them up near one of locations blocking the view for three of the photos. When I looked at another photo it wasn’t that interesting except for some tidal changes. So since that time I have only been taking three pictures a day and using my wide angle lens on Sunday. The series is called 9:05 or so which allows me to be late and there are days when I don’t go.
Another theme I have been working on since the summer of 2001 is a ‘working hands’ photographs. I had a wonderful opportunity of seeing a gentleman carrying some pylons after some road work one day and it was just so brilliant and red with his yellow jacket and weather beaten hands that I took that photograph and then became quite interested in other people working with their hands. I was fortunate to also be able to photograph a road crew in Vancouver working on repaving the street.
Another interest is running. I see a lot of runners when I am out taking photographs of the NW Arm. As they run by, primarily women with their hair swinging – I just love that feeling of the hair and am trying to capture that as well. I also began running fairly seriously in the spring of 2001 and have some wonderful shots of myself or of running in the locations I have been and which I just love to be in.
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