If there's one thing we know about this life, this world... it's that you don't have to have it all figured out by the time you turn 18. Because let's face it, nobody has it figured out by then. Heck, we usually still don't have it figured out by 25, 30, 40, and so on and so forth. Truly, we're all just trying to figure it out each and every day. The best we can hope for is to find something we love to do, whether it's a full-time job or a hobby. Invest our time in this thing we love and share it with the world.
And that's exactly what 38-year-old Tom Gilliam of Dayton, Ohio has done. He didn't study photography in school. He works an IT job. But he came to love photography whilst driving his napping son around town. At first, he'd just snap pics on his phone. But then, he caught the photography bug and upgraded his equipment. It also meant an overhaul of his brand, from person IG account to this... (Read the next line.)
Everyone, we want you to meet @DaytonGram.
@DaytonGram, meet everyone.
Cincinnati Refined: What first inspired your interest in photography?
Tom Gilliam: I joined Instagram by creating a private, personal account on December 1, 2011. My first photo was a Reds hoodie. I’ve been hooked on photography ever since. My camera when I joined IG was an iPhone 3GS.
CR: What’s your favorite subject to shoot?
Gilliam: Buildings/architecture are my favorite, but I also enjoy photographing cityscapes, nature, animals, and baseball games. Long-exposure shots at night are definitely a favorite of mine. Lastly, I love photographing and exploring abandoned spaces. (I always get permission, though.)
CR: How did @DaytonGram come about?
Gilliam: I woke up on July 10, 2013 and created the @DaytonGram Instagram account. (Dave Schmidt's @cincygram account was my direct inspiration to start it.) There really wasn't anyone in Dayton showcasing the city exclusively with a Dayton-centric IG account, so I figured I would give it a try. Doing this account was definitely a fun hobby at first. However, I quickly realized that I could use DaytonGram to get more people excited about Dayton, by showing them the beauty here on the surface and within.
This city has had some rough times since the economic collapse around 2007. We lost two of our biggest companies: NCR (which moved to Georgia) and the GM Moraine plant (which closed, along with most of its surrounding automobile parts suppliers). I noticed that a lot of people were being negative about Dayton on social media and the Internet. It was an opportunity to send a positive message and show people through my photography that there are a lot of unique things about our city, especially tied to our history and these things should be celebrated.
The thing I feel that makes DaytonGram unique is that I give people a behind-the-scenes look at the Dayton area. They have the opportunity to see places they wouldn't have otherwise. Right now, Dayton is in the midst of a renaissance with many development/re-development projects in progress — especially downtown.
CR: What are your long-term aspirations with it?
Gilliam: My plan with DaytonGram is to try and be even more active posting photos on it than I already am. As of tonight, DaytonGram has reached 10,000 followers. That's nice, but what's more important than having a lot of followers is having people that really appreciate Dayton and the photos/information that I'm posting. That will always be more important than quantity. Even though I had never planned for it, DaytonGram has made it possible for me to have professional opportunities in photography, which I’ll keep pursuing.
CR: Camera of choice?
Gilliam: My one and only DSLR is a Nikon D3200. I purchased it in October of 2014.
CR: What’s the one lens you can’t live without?
Gilliam: I have a Tamron 18mm-270mm lens that stays attached to my camera body most of the time. It really is a diverse, workhorse lens.
CR: How would you describe your photographic style (i.e. what makes a Tom photo unique)?
Gilliam: That's tough to answer, but I would say that I do my best to provide a unique perspective, angle wise with the photos; plus, I'm very picky about lines. My photos need to be as symmetrical as possible.
CR: What’s at the top of your photography bucket list?
Gilliam: The one shot I really want to get is a nighttime long exposure of Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World with Cinderella Castle in the background and the streets empty without any people walking around. Also, I would love to photograph New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Detroit, Egypt, many countries in Europe like Italy (especially Rome), United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and more of our National Parks (e.g. Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, etc.).
CR: Any advice for aspiring photographers?
Gilliam: Expensive camera gear doesn't make the photographer. It's about the creativity in your mind and ability to experiment/take chances. My photographer friend, Mac, once told me, when I got frustrated because I thought I needed better gear, "The best camera you have is the one on you."
Also, be sure to buy a tripod when you start getting serious about photography. I made the mistake of not buying one until 2015. Even though it's a pain to carry around, it makes such a difference eliminating camera shake, especially in low-light situations. It is a must-have. You'll have guaranteed crisp and clear photos; plus, you'll never have to worry about blowing out your ISO to the max.
CR: Motto live by…
Gilliam: It's not my quote, but it helps me accomplish more.
"Everyone needs deadlines." - Walt Disney
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Pretty good stuff, eh? Now if you wanna see Gilliam's creativity in action, be sure to scroll back to the top to peruse the gallery.