Tomas van Houtryve

ICP Curator Pauline Vermare Talks to the 2015 Infinity Awards Recipient for Photojournalism
Apr 30, 2015
From the series Blue Sky Days. © Tomas van Houtryve.
From the series Blue Sky Days. © Tomas van Houtryve.

How long have you been a photographer?

I became a professional photographer in 1999, when I graduated from college and started working for the Associated Press in Panama.

What inspired your turn to photography?

Immediately after graduation in 1999 (I studied philosophy), I developed a passion for photography while enrolled in an overseas university program in Nepal. I spent a semester there, and photography helped me explore and understand the culture.

What was your first story?

My first story was about life in a trailer park in Colorado.

How did your drone project come about?

I’d been thinking about a way to bring America’s drone war home. Although the war has been going on for over a decade, it is taking place under a veil of secrecy. The visual record is remarkably thin, and the public rarely engages with it.

How has it been received?

The project has attracted some fantastic partners, which has helped it gain momentum and reach a wide audience. Harper’s magazine was the first to publish the work, and it has since appeared in TIME, The New York Times LENS Blog, National Geographic, and others. The Open Society Foundations showed the work as part of its Watching You, Watching Me exhibition, and I have several more exhibitions lined up in Europe this summer.

How do you use new technologies and social media in your work?

Powerful new technologies have the potential to change our lives for better or for worse. I’m using new technologies like drones and social media, but I’m consciously probing their implications. When technologies have the potential to erode our humanity or undermine democratic institutions, I look for creative ways to bring that to light.

A few words about ICP and its place in the world of photography?

I’m humbled to receive this honor from ICP, which has nurtured the best traditions in photography for so many decades.

BONUS: Watch film on #InfinityAwards2015 Photojournalism recipient Tomas Van Houtryve, made by MediaStorm.