Tomas is only 23, half Polish but born in Italy, near Pistoia. Despite his young age, his eclectic personality has allowed him to achieve much. Recently graduated from TheDarkroom, app developer, photographer and graphic, Tomas is ready to share his story.
When did you first come into contact with photography?
The first time I remember holding a camera was during a trip to Ischia with my mom. I was around 11-12 years old. It was a Minolta point-to-shoot film camera and I started taking pictures of the surroundings. After development, I was told the pictures where quite nice. And that’s where it all started; later on, I started playing with the camera more and more and the passion just kept growing.
Did you follow this path when you had to choose High School?
In a way. I attended the “Istituto Tecnico Tecnologico” in Pistoia. It’s a technical high school with different specializations. I choose computer science and finished it with a score of 72/100. Computer science helped me a lot for my following studies in photography. I learned how computers work and how to program them; file management was never an issue and by then I had already started using digital cameras, and specifically a DSLR by the end of High School. Still, only a hobby.
What did you do after High School?
It was school year 2011/2012. After high school I tried to get into university at POLIMI, Communication Design, but I wasn’t able to pass the entrance test; so as a fallback I enrolled to Computer Engineering in Pisa, but I quit rather soon because it wasn’t my path. In the meantime, I’d heard about a school in Florence, the Accademia Leonetto Cappiello, which had a design course. I figured that was the direction I wanted to take and I ended up there for the year 2012. I didn’t like it much, but I learned valuable knowledge about logo design/packaging and things like that.
How did you end up at TheDarkroom?
TheDarkroom was the turning point. After trying (and failing) again at the POLIMI, I started to think about going professional with photography. I first looked at schools in London and Warsaw, but I couldn’t find anything that suited me. I attended some photography workshops in London in February 2014, and then I found out about TheDarkroom. What got me to enroll was the module structure. I was free to attend only the topics I was interested in, and that’s what I did. I took Still Life, Photojournalism, Portrait and Fashion: it went really good. To be honest, after my last experience at the Accademia Cappiello, I was a bit disappointed with Italian way of teaching; but at TheDarkroom I was finally able to learn something practical about photography. The teachers were qualified and I loved how they organized practice in real life. For example, during the Photojournalism module we had to really gain access to certain places and shops in order to go beyond what the average viewer would be able to reach.
Were you able to start working on some projects while you were still studying there?
I didn’t have projects of my own. I was still exploring the infinite possibilities that photography could give, to find out what I loved the most. But the school provided me with projects to work on. For example, the collaboration between Artex and TheDarkroom on Tuscan Craftmenship: we had to make arrangements to shoot artisan workshops around Florence, and go work by ourselves. It was a great experience, I learned how to operate in the field and the difficulties you can experience. Then again, during the Still Life module we worked on a project of shooting clothing for a catalog. We learned how to keep the light consistent and suitable for different types of fabric: it’s easier said than done.
Did you do BTO as well? Tell me about it.
Yes, last December. BTO is a major event on the euro scene regarding tourism and how to make tourism work with new technologies. The event is held in Fortezza da basso, Florence, in two days. The number of keynotes and speakers is impressive. Michele (Pero, n.d.r.) called me and two other former students to cover the main events. There is no way three photographers could cover all the events so the current students at TheDarkroom where sent to minor events. Those were two hectic days: as soon as we finished shooting an event we had to hurry to our computers, download, process, and give Michele the pictures so he could upload them live to the web. All of course, had to be done in time for the next speech. All day long. It was tiring but lots of fun. While I was shooting I took the chance to listen to the news in the tourism-tech world.
Did you find out what you wanted to specialize in eventually?
I think at the moment I’m leaning towards Fashion and Photojournalism; I know they’re two opposite things but those are my favorite. The first because it allows me to express my creativity to a certain degree; The latter because I like to explore, experience and document things. I’m not really sure what I’d like to specialize in, but these are the most important things.
What did you do after TheDarkroom?
Actually, something that has nothing to do with photography, of course! Since I am enrolled in the Apple Developer Program and I have an app on the app store, I had the opportunity to attend the 2014 WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference) in San Francisco. I visited the Silicon Valley then I flew to Tokyo to attend a Japanese language summer school. The photos I took during that period will be exposed during this year’s Hinamatsuri in Florence, from March 27th to March 30th. It’s mostly street photography and portraits. I love Asian culture and Japan in particular. I’ve been dreaming of visiting Japan since I was fifteen and I finally did it. I am really fascinated by their civilization.
Would you like to tell a bit about your app?
It’s called bitSnake. It’s a simple snake remake, a game very popular with Nokia cell phones. I wanted to make a remake that felt as simple as the original but with different graphics. Actually the idea was to use this game as a starting point for a greater version but I’m not developing it right now. The technology world changes too fast, it’s hard to keep up.
Do you do a lot of street photography? I see you experimented with time-lapse as well.
I like street photography: it’s an extension of photojournalism. It helps to document the ordinary life of our cities. In the future it will be nice to compare how things were. And I love time-lapse! It’s quite a demanding technique, depending on the quality and length you want to make them. I did one of my town, Montecatini Terme, and it took me almost a year! That’s because I only recorded during the clearest days with clouds. And believe me, those are really rare. It’s a 4K time-lapse, quite big and “heavy” to process.
What are you doing with photography now, in present days?
Recently I’ve been working with still life photography and had an assignment from Artex. I was requested to shoot some catalog photos of household objects like table cloth, towels, etcetera. This should lead to a lasting collaboration between me and Artex. A few days ago I opened an Italian VAT number, so I’m legally a professional now and I’m organizing some fashion shoots in Florence.
Do you have a motto or a phrase for the way you live your life/work?
At the moment, I live by the day. I like to express through fashion photography, and explore with photojournalism. If I had a motto, it could be: keep improving, don’t settle.
Have you had an inspiration, like a role model?
No one in particular, but at the moment I really like Joe McNally, an american photographer: I like the way he uses light. Generally speaking I tend to watch lots of photographers work and workshops to keep improving myself and get inspiration.
Tell me something about your style and your technique.
I love light and generally I tend to slightly overexpose to have a brighter look. What I tend to do with color photographs is to open the shadows: I want to give the picture a dynamic range close to what my eyes see or how I remember the scene. I love wide angle lenses, they allow me to capture a lot of the scene, plus you can use them in very creative ways.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I want to develop both my fashion skills and journalism skills. I hope in ten years I’ll be hired by Nation Geographic somewhere!
And what about the near future? Where will we hear about Tomas Stankiewicz?
In the next few days I will be exposing my photos of Japan at Hinamatsuri in Florence, Sala Ex-Leopoldine, Piazza Tasso 8. Apart from that, I’d like to improve my app, and I will be around Florence trying to push my creativity with photography. I want to make a living out of photography, so I will do my best in that direction.
Giada Ilaria Demitry