Alumnus Tom Dingley brings his #Outcome project to Greenwich
Q&A with Tom Dingley
What is #Outcome?
Outcome is a photography exhibition of portraits of LGBT people holding a picture of themselves as children. I started in 2014 and am still taking photos. There are 112 portraits now including Lord Chris Smith, Elly Barnes MBE, Britain’s Got Talent’s La Voix, Bake Off’s John Whaite, The Apprentice’s Sanjay Sood-Smith and Emmerdale’s Alicya Eyo and many other people. It has already been exhibited at London Pride, Brighton Pride, Student Pride, Digital Pride and as part of LGBT History Month celebrations. The project is a celebration of all LGBT people, known and unknown.
What inspired you to start the project?
I wanted to look into stereotypes of what an LGBT person looks like; because there is no absolute definition. I started with the idea of portraying people with tools, clothes or other things that reveal their professions and interests. Then I asked each person to hold a photo of themselves as a child. This was to generate the notion that ‘it gets better’: to send a positive message to people coming to terms with their sexuality and/or identity, that you grow up, come out and become someone.
Inspired by my own fear of the coming out process and subsequent warm reception from everyone around me, I do not want others to hold themselves back, like I did. As an LGBT+ community we know that you can do anything, but we still need to break down stereotypes and strengthen the varied community we are part of.
What have you learnt?
I have learnt so much from this project and it has helped to boost my own confidence as a photographer. Portraiture was not a subject I did a lot of at university, so I used the project as a way to force myself into doing so – I have now photographed over 100 people for the project and other portraiture for commercial work. With regards to learning in the LGBT+ community I have found everyone’s stories so valuable – each person’s coming out is different, but the feelings of fear and concern were all too apparent for most.
My project, I hope, helps to show that if you are on the verge of coming out, you have all these role models and thousands more who have gone through this process.
What are your plans after this?
After the book launch, the plan is to carry on adding more portraits to the mix. I will be taking the Outcome book (80 portraits and biographies) and exhibition on tour, and hope to hold a pop-up studio day at each venue where more people can get involved in the project. The pop-up studio will be part of the programme of events in Greenwich so alumni are welcome to take part!
Have your studies at Greenwich helped you in your current career?
Yes. One of the most important lessons I obtained from my time at Greenwich Uni was to trust myself. My tutors were open and encouraged me to define my own style by trying things out. They explained that having no clear direction was a positive, because the choice was mine and I could explore what areas of photography I enjoyed best. Moreover, they also encouraged me to be confident and to put myself out there. They highlighted that work does not come to you, thus, whether it is for paid or self-initiated projects, like Outcome, you have to be pro-active.
I was so pleased with the work I carried out at university, my classmates and tutors. I really feel like they helped me excel and develop ready to go it alone in the big wide world.
If you could travel back in time to when you were a student at Greenwich, what would you say to your student self?
I was not out at university, at first, but it was here where I first started telling people, my closest friends. Helped by gaining confidence you get at uni from your peers and socialising. I did not get the opportunity to use the LGBT network whilst studying at Greenwich – which I definitely would have been interested in. I would also tell my student self to get on with it, with hindsight – a wonderful thing – it is best to get things done; whether that is coming out – or finishing your coursework way in advance of the night before deadline day!
I am very excited to bring my work back to the University of Greenwich and celebrate the launch of the book and exhibition, it will be the biggest showing Outcome has had since I started the project two years ago. I hope to see you there or get in touch if you are interested in being part of it.