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I was born in Chicago and I had been educated in Contemporary Art History, Architecture, lndustrial Design and Graphic Design. However, my work in Chicago was in annual reports: I travelled the United States and photographed every type of industry, from rocket cones to slaughter houses.

In the middle of the eighties, I found myself in Milan photographing RB Rossana kitchens for Michele De Lucchi, who I had met in Chicago during a Memphis exhibition. Design had been re-energized by Ettore Sottsass with the Memphis group, and was in a period of research and discovery.

Shortly after, I met Philippe Starck in New York. He knew the catalog I had made for City, a design store in Chicago, and immediately proposed some projects to do together in Paris. This led to a ten years collaboration as his personal photographer. In that period I met as well lngo Maurer and we began our collaboration which endured for the rest of his life.

With these designers, each one different culturally and creatively, I began my search for a way to accompany the expressions they were producing. The object was theirs but the background was mine to create. I wanted to make an object in a picture rather than a picture of an object. It should also have an identity or logos. I began with light experiments influenced by Man Ray, Moholy Nagy and the film noir movies I watched on TV as a boy. I made a conscious decision to allow naiveté and sub conscious memories to be my guide rather than polished, studied and clean photography. I used hard light with cinema and TV studio lighting techniques as they revealed material and surface as well as shadows to create a graphic in the photo. I did not want to create a nostalgia but a new modernism. I began to design sets and installations that I often hand painted myself.

Over those years I worked with Ron Arad, Luigi Colani, Marc Newson, Massimo losa Ghini, Alessandro Mendini, Aldo Cibic, Antonio Citterio, among others.

Things have changed from those years of design re-awakening. New technologies of manufacturing and visualizing design. But, of course, as a photographer, digital cameras and Photoshop are the process changers. Photoshop has enhanced and detracted from the perception of photography. Before it, photography was naively seen as a representation of a reality and so things, that seemed outside of reality, but were seen in a photograph took on an air of magic. The photographer of such work was seen as a type of magician doing tricks that, even if you knew were not possible, made you ask how did they do that. Now we have one answer that fits all: Photoshop! Also before it, studio photography was a type of 'zen discipline', everything had to be prepared or engineered, with targeted concentration, for that one moment of the exposure. I can remember working on a set for one week and in a sixtieth of a second put it on film and then tearing it down in three hours. That said, Photoshop and digital photography has empowered me with a new process to realise a new set of ideas and a precision of lighting to render my subjects as I would want.

In  2014 the Pinakothek der Moderne, Die Neue Sammlung Design Museum in Munich showed an exhaustive retrospective exhibition about my work called Vanity of object. Tom Vack Design Photography.  Vanity does have its positive aspects as well. Let us think about it as concerned about ones' appearance. Objects themselves are the designer's envisioning that an object manifests. His inner reflection of form and substance, of beauty and its many natured expressions be it: modest-opulent, minimal-abundant, conforming-iconoclastic, playful-serious, harmonious-dissonant, or something so unique and original, it cannot be categorized. With more than 200 pictures, the exhibition described my personal way of communicating avant-garde design.

At some point in my life I have discovered the pleasure to use my camera free from assigned projects, enjoying shooting what I see around me in the research of an aesthetic focused on my personal idea of ‘beauty’. You can see about this work on my OpenEye Art Projects website. 

In 2016 the Milan Design Film Festival presented a documentary film about my professional career in the world of design, entitled Drunk on light. An American photographer in Milanby Ester Pirotta and Emilio Tremolada. You can see the film here.

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