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Behind the lens: A conversation with photographer Charles Thomas

All images by Charles Thomas

Rolling out spotlights Chicago-based photographer Charles Thomas for our weekly Behind The Lens feature.

Give me a tweet length description of who you are as a photographer

I believe I am more of a visual artist who uses different forms of art to express my creativity.

On a scale of 1-10, how close are you to reaching your maximum potential as an artist (with 10 being the highest)?


Describe the moment that you knew photography was your life’s calling.

It was the very first shot I took of someone. I just felt so connected and at home in that moment. It was years ago but I still get the energy and connection I felt on that day whenever I look at the photo. In that moment, I knew this was my calling.

What were the steps that were taken to get you from that initial dream to becoming an accomplished professional? 

In my early years, I was a sketch artist and painter. In high school, graphic design was my newfound talent. I landed a few job opportunities with fashion magazine companies, which piqued my interest and made me want to understand photography and video.

All images by Charles Thomas

Who have been some of your greatest teachers? 

My high school instructor Leo Maxie was one my favorite. He introduced me to the world of Adobe, which helped me greatly in my crafts. My mentor Sean Rush opened my eyes to the business aspect of things, which helped me focus more on building a brand and image.

Who has served as some as your greatest creative inspirations outside of other photographers?

How important is it to study the greats?
In my opinion, I found it hard to really study “the greats” before me. I think it’s because I never try and follow anyones path or technique. I have always wanted to create my own way from my own experiences with little to no inspiration.

Rank these in order of importance while describing your rankings: technical proficiency, clarity of vision, personal project investment.
1. Clarity of vision because it helps you to set clear goals and more easily achieve them. 2. Technical Proficiency because having skills and knowledge will better equip you to invest in yourself; hence, why (3) personal project investment is last.

All images by Charles Thomas

In what ways do you ensure connection with your subject?
By being myself and maintaining purity of heart no matter what. People can feel genuineness. I respect them in all ways. I make them feel comfortable and a part of the creative experience as much as I am.

What is one passion project that you are looking to pursue in the future?
Shooting a full scale editorial in a tropical rainforest.

Have you felt personally impacted by the fact that you are a minority among working photographers

Yes, I have and still do. In my position, every choice I make is based off of my perception as a minority male.

What advice would you have for aspiring photographers, specifically people of color? 

Be true to yourself, because at the end of the day, that’s who you will have to live with.

See more of his work below:

To learn more about Charles Thomas, visit him on Instagram @charlesandrethomas