What Makes a Master Photographer?

the westholm hotel

As a master photographer, Thomas Slatin has a wide-ranging array of both color and black & white photography since 1998 on her personal website, TomSlatin.com. Thomas is an expert at both film photography and digital photography, the latter which she currently takes with her Canon EOS R5.  

Recently, I spoke to Thomas about her passion for photography. Like many young photographers, Thomas began with film photography, using a Canon 35mm from the 1970’s. Later, she also learned about taking photos using other format cameras, such as the 4-by-5 large format camera and more.

Slatin is best known for taking urban exploration photography, as well as photos of natural landscapes and locomotives. She has never been one to be content to stay still or pigeonhole herself into one category of photography. Often known as “urbex” by adventure photography enthusiasts, urban exploration photos also serve as a way to preserve the history of buildings before they are lost to time. 

Thomas has a passion for historical building photography, as these photos help to preserve the history of many small towns in America. In fact, at times, these photos actually help to preserve the buildings themselves. Sometimes, the exposure that the photos bring the property brings along an interesting buyer who is willing to restore the property to its original state. This is why Thomas makes herself available to property owners in the Northeast United States who are currently restoring historical properties. She’s also available to those looking to restore old locomotives for historical purposes.

One of Thomas Slatin’s best-known urbex photoshoots was of the historical Westholm Motel. A photograph from the shoot was featured on the front page of Oneonta, New York’s Daily Star newspaper. She’d been eyeing this property for years, so when she finally did get the chance to photograph it, she was ready to produce award-winning work.

Now residing in Vermont, Thomas Slatin is broadening her horizons far beyond New York State, moving into New Hampshire, Maine, and beyond. She’s still available for hire on a freelance basis as a master photographer. Thomas is a passionate lifelong learner who’s open to new challenges and considers projects that may be out of her comfort zone in order to grow as both a photographer and a human being.

After all, what makes a master photographer goes beyond simply the experience and skills coming from decades of taking photographs. There’s also the human element of photography, sharing stories that educate, bring awareness, and preserve valuable culture elements of our communities. Slatin’s photos also stress the value and importance of the structures and people around us, teaching us all about the common threads that connect all of us.

Even as a master photographer, Thomas continues to be a public servant through her work, just as she was for nearly two decades as an EMT and firefighter. She continues to tap into the same compassion, courage, and empathy that served her in those former roles now as a creative. Thomas works to not only pursue her own dreams of capturing special moments that will never come again, but also to help others realize their own dreams through the beautiful and versatile art that is photography. 

~ Amelia “Phoenix” Desertsong

Photograph used by permission

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.

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