Thomas Wilson is a photographer and high school environmental science teacher based in Brooklyn, New York. His work as a science educator overlaps startkly with his photographs. A combination of candid portraiture, mixed with foreign and familiar landscapes stems from his history as an Earth Science teacher. Thomas’s pictures are easily digestible but often requires the viewer to delve deeper and consider larger questions regarding cultural norms, geologic history, or existence.
His work has been featured on numerous platforms, most notably on BOOOOOOOM. More of his work can be found on Instagram @thomspictures / @levvvels. Complete series can be viewed at http://cargocollective.com/tomjosephwilsonphoto. Thomas is currently working on completing his second book entitled ‘Northern Tier’ – a dramatic series about his bicycle tour from New York to Portland, Oregon taken last summer.
In 2013 I signed a 27th-month contract and joined the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps tends gets a bad rap but I think it’s an alright organization. Anyway, I moved from Long Island to Malawi to teach high school Earth Science and to meet some new people. I had never been to Africa before but I had done a fair amount of traveling in college. Fast-forward to 2014—after about a year of living in Malawi, I had shot a lot of things that interested me as I moved around the country. Bike taxis, hand painted storefronts, and minibuses with religious bumper stickers. It wasn’t until 2014 that I started my Levels series.
A few of my friends and I would always stay at the same hostel each time we went into the city (Blantyre) to run errands. The hostel was called The Oriental and It had an incredible balcony that overlooked the busiest traffic circle in Blantyre. On the balcony, we would pass the time by seeing who could point out the person carrying the most stuff on their head. We eventually turned it into a game by giving each object a value. One object was a level 1, two objects was a level 2, and so on… The rules got more complicated the more we played. For instance, a person carrying a bowl of peanuts on their head isn’t a level 578; it’s a level 1. 1 Bowl of peanuts = a level 1. But, hypothetically, if 578 peanuts were individually balanced one on top of the other, then that would be a true Level 578. I started bringing my camera to the balcony during morning and evening rush hour to take photos of people carrying things. I started posting photos of the game on my Instagram and it basically snowballed from there. I moved back to New York in 2015 and I made a poster of the Levels series and gave them out to my friends. Now I look for people carrying things on their heads in Brooklyn. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I mostly see Level 1’s in New York but I’ve seen the occasional level 2; almost always laundry.
I recently started an Instagram called @levvels where I’ve been posting photos that I took in Malawi and NY, but I’m also trying to get people to contribute the best levels that they’ve come across by submitting images to me.
To view more of Thomas Wilson’s work please visit his website.