Our interview with UK born photographer and creative director M.Koa Thomas. His photography, particularly his bold, unflinching portraits has been featured across multiple publications, and he has worked within music, arts, culture and fashion.
"I think I have an internal narrative of a kind of semi-fictional world, and the photos I take are an expression of that."
Can you introduce yourself and tell us where you're from?
"My name is M.Koa Thomas, I’m a photographer from the U.K, currently based in New Zealand where I have found a bit of a safe haven since COVID hit."
What made you first pick up a film camera?
“I grew up watching different types of movies. Even as a child I was interested in the different characters, their mannerisms, how their clothes and appearance represented them, and even how they were filmed. I wanted to create this myself in some way, and a camera was the most accessible way that I could try and capture this vision that I had. That’s how I fell into photography.”
What was the first film stock that you ever used?
"The first film stock I ever used was a Fuji color 200 I believe. I loved the saturated colours and nostalgic look it produced with the grain, especially in bright conditions.
Since then I found I wanted my images to look softer and less grainy, concentrating on the tones a lot more, rather than the colour and brightness.
For me Portra 160 or 400 is great for taking portraits, and Kodak Ektar 100 for landscapes."
What message do you try and convey with your images?
“What I try to capture with my images when taking photos of people, is to try and capture a mood and create a character from the images. I think this goes back to what totally made me pick up a camera in the first place.
When taking photos of landscapes and textures, I like to try and capture surrealism. Usually something that you have to look closer at. I also feel like I may subconsciously be taking photos of types of ‘scenes’ I envision the people I take photos of to be seen or found. I think I have an internal narrative in my head of a kind of semi-fictional world, and the photos I take are expressions of that."
Where do you get your inspiration from?
“The movies I enjoyed watching were lots of old noir films, Tarantino movies with their incredible scripts and characters and old gangster movies set in the 60s and 70s such as; A Bronx Tale, Carlitos Way, Sleepers, Casino, Once Upon A Time In America, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets. I feel like the characters and their mannerisms in these movies are perhaps something I look out for when taking photos of people, or sometimes I may draw this out of them in some way. I feel like I can imagine a fictional narrative in which the model would fit into when taking their photo, and try to capture them in a way that represents the character I have developed for them in my mind...”