North, West, East, South - Statement

Nashville, Tennessee-based photographer Thomas Petillo is perhaps best known for his strikingly intimate portraits of great musicians (Robert Plant, Ben Folds, John Prine, Kid Rock and Porter Wagoner, to name only a few). Thomas has spent fifteen years honing the skills necessary to produce these beautiful images for record labels, magazines, and ad agencies. These portraits have come to define his style. But a very different Petillo has emerged in the last few years as the result of a series of commissions by Hammock, the ambient duo, who asked him to create images for their recordings. No matter his subject, Petillo's images are characterized by a delicate balance of stark realism and magical wonder, as if he stands with one foot in the spirit and the other in the flesh. This rare talent has given his work a singular imprint and has earned for him a distinguished place among contemporary photographers.

Just A Way Out - Statement

A snap. A click. A whir. Then the bath. The sounds around photographer Thomas Petillo have taken on a satisfying sameness. Even the cities he’s lived in—Birmingham, Salt Lake City, Mill Valley, Nashville—are exactly the same now:  Points on a map, leading to…nudes? 

“It seemed to me that all of my influences had a period where they shot nudes. Although the thought of doing such a project terrified me (and still does), I thought I should at least try and maybe push myself,” Thomas explains from his Nashville studio.

Within his work, there have always been forms. Sometimes, objects suspended in space. Other times, featured in industrial backdrops. Always laid bare so you could regard the thing as something other than its purely functional state. Then came the people. Austere, emotionally stripped, pleading. Portraits that would soon garner him attention and jobs that had him shooting musicians with name recognition. Though generally clothed, these portraits were leading him somewhere new, to try a confluence of his own styles.

I had the thought "Just shoot the nudes in the style that you approach all of your other shoots with.” 

And so, his latest work, titled “Just A Way Out” found its crucible in Hot Springs, Arkansas, occasionally in the very space in which this collection will first be seen. We now see nudes placed in industrial settings, or hanging, suspended in space, begging a metaphysical reaction to something we’ve come to lazily regard in only the physical sense. Thomas is at play, his fears long behind him.

“I guess, at first, shooting them meant proving to myself that I could even do it. And then it meant proving that it wasn't a fluke, that I could do it again. And now, it means continuing to do it at a high enough level. One that no longer scares me.”

Past Exhibitions:
Strange Places Familiar Faces - November 2007 The Gallery@404b Hot Springs, AR
Polaroids and Soundscapes - November 2008 The Gallery@404b Hot Springs, AR
North, West, East, South - February 2009 The Rymer Gallery Nashville, TN
New{d} Hangings - May 2009 The Local Gallery Hot Springs, AR
Just A Way Out - June 2010 Museum of Contemporary Art Hot Springs, AR
Just A Way Out - July 2010 The Rymer Gallery Nashville, TN
North, West, East, South - September 2010 The Hive Fayetteville, AR
Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival - September 2011 Seattle, WA

Upcoming Exhibitions:
ACP Auction 2011 - September 23, 2011 - Atlanta, GA

Mary Stanley Studio - October 2011 - Atlanta, GA
Just A Way Out - Currently touring museums with Circulating Exhibitions