Published on October 20, 2012 | by Elspeth Merry


Face to Face with Tom Oxley


Renowned music photographer Tom Oxley opened the doors to his debut solo exhibition, Face to Face, last week; treating fervent spectators to three minutes of high definition video portraits of musicians of the moment.

A perfect juxtaposition between performance and portraiture, it was a unique insight into the muse’s guise, where you felt their untainted presence— they weren’t hiding behind a facade, simply laid bare and exposed for what seemed like an eternity.


On entering the vast project space, you are greeted by a large boisterous portrait of Mark Ronson, illuminated on the walls and revealing his cocksure persona—the small hand gestures and intense stare all depicting his self-assured, confident nature.

Never had you felt so close to him, so understanding of his character.

The projection then changed to a more bashful Rizzle Kicks— new kids on the block, and you could tell they were humbled, down to earth, and still unassuming with their position in the music industry.

This contrasted dramatically to a brazen Liam Gallagher, whose bold personality still radiated from the portrait—though he was hiding behind his infamous sunglasses.

But even this could allude to a deeply scarred psyche, too self-conscious to bare his soul to society.

This inherent intimacy Oxley creates is taken from an early photographic technique whereby sitters or muses in the 19th century would often have to remain still for an extended period of time.

Oxley draws upon this method and visibly shows that it is this play on a moment— an extended frame of portraiture, which becomes the enhanced study of character.

Sexual references

You can’t help but feel a stark imminence and familiarity to these musical luminaries that couldn’t be felt on television or in a photograph— watching Professor Green glaring like a tough guy but feeling a connection to an innocence he somehow gives off.

Whilst Eliza Doolittle portrays a conflicting persona to a sugar coated pop star—standing tall with her bra showing under an unbuttoned shirt.

She makes sexual references with her facial expressions; biting her lip, oozing sexual desire, and wanting you to watch her with zeal.

Oxley comments that he shot most of the musicians in their own homes so that they could really get comfortable in front of the lens, whilst he tries to unravel the view that the camera creates a hyper-front stage setting which can cause an increase of the use of impression.

Here you feel like there is no facade, no smokescreen— it is the musician, uncovered and exposed.

What Tom Oxley has achieved is exceptional, and if you really want to get inside the head of an individual, this shouldn’t be missed.

Face to Face runs from 19 October- 28 October at Londonewcastle Project Space, 28 Redchurch Street, London, E2 7DP

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