Tom Bing photography head

FOCUS on Tom Bing

Bikes People

Meet Tom Bing

Our FOCUS for this edition is Tom Bing.

If you got a ‘U’ in A-Level photography you’d probably think twice about your ability behind a lens. We’re glad Tom Bing wasn’t put off by that minor blip…

Influx: How did you get into photography? 

“I’ve been taking photos for a long time. My grandfather was a keen photographer so there were always SLR and 35mm cameras about growing up. The scene I grew up in, in Norwich in the early 2000s was really creative.

“I rode BMX and went to tonnes of DIY punk shows. The culture was all about making zines and films and photography was always central to that. I grew up being obsessed with the work of Glen E Friedman, Ed Templeton and UK photographers like Sandy Carson and Ricky Adam who actually sold me my first DSLR.

“I tried to study photography at college but got a U in A-level photography, ironically because I didn’t go to as many lessons as I should, I was always in the darkroom. I never stopped taking pictures and photography ended up being central to my art school degree. I’ve dabbled in professional freelance work for probably ten years now but it wasn’t until about 3 years ago when I was working as a high school teacher, that I knew I needed to put my everything into it. I felt ready to work on the business aspect of the work, not just the creative.”

Influx: What kind of subjects do you like to shoot? 

“I like to try to document things the way I see them. I rarely work in a studio, I think the world is far too interesting to shoot in front of a plain wall. I love getting out there, getting amongst it and shooting what I see.

“I’ve been drawn to the motorcycle world, partly as a progression from the BMX world that I left behind, and partly because I love the action, movement and places it takes me. I’ve ridden from Santiago, Chile to California shooting photos, last year I was in Land’s End and John O’Groats as well as Norway, Milan, California, Holland, Belgium, Germany… I love to go on adventures and shoot what happens on them, I love working with people and documenting places and experiences. I work a lot with a fly-fishing company which is totally different from the bikes but a great match for my work, this year we are going to Scotland, Norway, New York State, Key West and a couple of other cool places.

“Surfing has been pretty central to my life for a few years now. I was really into shooting surfing but there is always a conflict there. We, as surfers, try to protect our spots from becoming overcrowded, so as my following started to increase, documenting the waves became a little more problematic for me but I do love to capture the power of the ocean and the style of my favourite surfers.”

Influx: Are there any images you’re particularly proud of? 

“I have a few that stand out really. Last year, I was in California with Ryan Quickfall and shot some great stuff for Built Magazine. We met Steve Caballero, legendary skateboarder and original Bones Brigade member. He actually painted a photo of mine, a shot that ended up on the cover of Greasy Kulture from The Race of Gentlemen, the year before in California. I have the painting now, that’s pretty cool. There is a portrait of Steve that I love. There are a few shots from hanging out with Scotty Stopnik at Cycle Zombies and riding Harleys with Otto from Biltwell. Aside from that, I’m always proud when my shots end up in cool places. I love working with 13.5 Magazine in Holland, Sik is a great guy and a real supporter of my work, Gary Inman from Sideburn has had me on a few jobs which is great to see my work in the pages of his great mag. Also, I just shot a short film for VW with Ryan Quickfall too, that’s a proud moment to see that one.

“Aside from the commercial bike work, the trip my wife and I did, from Santiago to San Francisco, over 16,000 miles on Honda XR150s has given us a body of work that we can be proud of for the rest of our lives.”

Photography pic 2 Tom Bing

Influx: How do you feel about camera phones? 

“I had a baby recently and for the first three months, I had the worst camera phone in the world. My wife has a Nokia that doesn’t even have a colour screen. I felt we were missing out on a lot of cool memories just by not having access to a decent camera at all times. My professional gear often lives in the studio and isn’t always that accessible. I just got a good camera phone but the shots I’m getting on it only really become worthwhile photos if we print them and keep them for the future, I’d rather have ten lovely prints than 100 photos on a memory card somewhere in a draw that probably won’t be compatible in 20 years’ time!

“Professionally, I’m not sure. I’m sure for some people they do the job but, for me, I shoot 95% of my work on beautiful Zeiss glass, a camera phone isn’t going to cut it but they have a time and a place.”

Influx: Is there a particular race, race series, person or vehicle you’d love to shoot one day? 

“Not really anything in particular, I guess the Baja California Peninsular in Mexico stole my heart when my wife and I were there a couple of years ago, surfing and riding. I’d love to go back, maybe the Baja 1000, or El Diablo Run. I’ve got a hit-list of brands and magazines I want to work with and I’m strategically working out how to do that. Most of the trips I do are self-funded and completely freelance. I think of them, book them, pay for them and organise everything. I’d love to work with a few more clients who have the budget to organise cool trips and I could just focus on getting really awesome shots and content.”

Influx: What makes a good photo? 

“That ‘slightly better than reality’ feeling. It’s real life but it just looks better somehow. Good lighting, depth, nice bokeh, good colour, composition and natural, great subject matter. Something that is a window into a story that grabs people’s attention and holds it.”

Influx: What advice would you give yourself if you could travel back ten years?

“I wouldn’t do anything differently. I tried being a teacher and I hated it, it made me miserable. The stress and pressure were unbelievable. I wouldn’t have not been a teacher though. You learn more about what you want to do from doing things you hate. If I hadn’t had professional lows, I wouldn’t be pushing for professional highs. I’ve done it all, call centre, pot wash, bartender, roadie, handyman, tattoo shop receptionist, they all contribute somehow to me as a person.

“It’s amazing, some of the jobs I do now are with or for people I knew ten years ago in a completely different context.”

More of Tom Bing’s photography work can be found on his website or on Instagram