Tom Volf is a photographer and a filmmaker. His work as a director spreads from filming for the Opera through fashion advertising and institutional documentaries for television broadcast and international communication, such as OECD.
I would like you to describe yourself who’s Tom and what he wants to do in life?
Tom is a 36-year-old author, director, film & stage – an artist at heart & soul – aiming to be in the service of Art & Beauty – that’s my life’s purpose I suppose. And God knows this world needs beauty more than ever. The means which serve this purpose are cinema (“Maria by Callas”), books, exhibitions, and theatre (Monica Bellucci). Of course, Maria Callas has been a turning point in my life. This happened in 2013 and gave birth to many of the great projects I’ve been privileged to achieve these last few years. Although there have been other projects as well, such as the immersive exhibition Jam Capsule in Paris, which I curated and created based on Flemish Painters such as Jan Van Eyck. Again, I’m always looking for vehicles to elevate souls and bring a sense of beauty and emotion into people’s lives.
What is photography for you? And how do you educate yourself to become a better photographer?
My work as a photographer started rather early on, in my early 20s, I started making portraits of singers & artists in France, and writers also. I enjoyed it a lot. And although in recent years I’ve turned much more towards directing, film & stage, rather than photography, it is something that always remained as another means of expression. For instance, when I created the show based on Callas’s letters with Monica Bellucci, I decided to shoot myself the photo for the poster, a black & white portrait capturing the alchemy between Maria & Monica. I have to confess I’m very proud of this photo because it’s about authenticity and truth, which conveys the emotion that we aim to convey on stage. To me, this is what photography is: a way of looking into someone’s soul and conveying that through a still image, which remains forever. Also, photography to me is a real art-craft, I only use manual film cameras for instance, because nowadays with modern technology, anyone could be a photographer, whereas using manual film cameras requires skills, concentration, time, and also for me photography requires a sense of staging – here it blends with my work as a director.
I’ve seen some of your photographs which are fashion style but the majority of the rest depict undiscovered lands. Why do you use this theme and what fascinates you about it?
This was part of my work in the past years, for instance, a journey to the North Pole, and another one through Tibet & Nepal. It was about pristine lands and the people (or the animals near the North Pole), again trying to convey beauty through Nature or Eastern cultures such as Tibet & Nepal where spirituality is everywhere. Nature & Spirituality are two faces of one coin to me.
What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer for you?
Being able to capture something ephemeral. A moment, an instant, that is already gone, unless using photography you make an imprint of this instant. Or the fact that using technique & light you can show something that you see and that others don’t – the idea of revelation, an image reveals something unseen before.
What is art?
Art is beauty and the elevation of the soul.
Critics vehemently supported this exceptional project and documentary on Maria Callas. How did you come up with this idea?
It started in 2013 when I was living in New York, and I came across recordings of Maria Callas, almost “by accident”, although I believe in destiny. When I started to learn more about her life while discovering more of her recordings, I was very touched by both, I thought “there is an incredible story to be told, with the duality between the woman & the artist, and how one side affected the other throughout her whole life. Making the film “Maria by Callas” took me 5 years and was a very challenging though beautiful journey. I often said I ended up making the film that I would have wanted to watch when I discovered her! From the film emerged various subsequent works, such as the book of her Letters & Memoirs (publisher by Patakis in Greece), I consider this all part of one vast mission that I took upon, and which leads me onto 2023 with her centennial (and a decade since I started my journey with her) intending to set up a Museum in Paris, as well as participate in the Museum project in Athens.
Was it difficult to direct, conduct and collect all information for the creation of this documentary?
Extremely difficult, because my goal was to make a film entirely out of archives, entirely in her own words, and unfortunately all the archives were scattered all around the world, it took a long time to retrieve and gather all the material without which the film could not have been completed. I was very lucky to have received the help & support of all of her closest friends still alive, some of them here in Athens as well, and I cannot be grateful enough for without them I probably couldn’t achieve this “mission”.
Who are your favorite filmmakers?
Luchino Visconti, Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder, among others!
What are the things you would do that you haven’t done?
Oh, many things! I have many dreams that I would love to achieve. I’m eager for new projects both cinema & stage. I hope to do more documentaries but also some feature films, and I would like to stage more theatrical plays as well as stage and direct an opera! I’m hoping to do some projects in Greece actually, as I have a love story with this country since we performed with Monica Bellucci last September at Herod Atticus which was a memorable experience. I have projects in France & Italy as well. So I’m open to many possibilities!