Tom Lisboa

I went to a symposium at Goldsmiths on 29/02/2020 after photography walk in Deptford. Tom Lisboa was one of the artists talkings there. He talked of photography as a starting point for his practice but then using and manipulating it to make works that play with the limitations of photography. A lot of the work involves urban intervention where the photograph is site-specific and intervenes with the ‘natural’ urban landscape. I found this work very interesting but what interested me more was when he started discussing other work which at first glance appears more conventionally photographic.

The first of these projects by Lisboa is called The Commuting (2018) and when looking for the first time the series appeared like conventional photographic prints on paper, albeit the print filling the shape of a circle on the paper. Then, gazing more closely I noticed small aberrations in the form of much smaller circles, what Lisboa would term ‘technical displacements’. This is one of the terms Lisboa stated fits his criteria for his projects. The circles, Lisboa explained, were holes punched from the topmost layer to reveal (up to 6) layers beneath which were in someway different to the other layers. The locations of the layers were on the same London Underground tubes but at different times so people had changed their sitting position or been replaced by other people. This reflected the ephemerality of the tubes in London, something most people wouldn’t notice, let alone make a photographic project out of. Perhaps Lisboa was more susceptible to noticing this either because of his artistic eye, or having recently moved to London or a combination of these factors.

The thing that struck me most about this project in relation to my body of work was that it was a form of repeat photography but presented differently. Not everything lined up perfectly within the layers (discounting the ephemeral people) but The Commuting (2018) is nevertheless immersive. This got me thinking how I could present my repeat photography; whether there is another, more imaginative way than a diptych side by side.

The last project Lisboa discussed is named Street Topographies (2019). This again involves repeat photography and the initial process sounded very similar to mine. Lisboa described standing with his camera (presumably on a tripod) for half an hour to an hour taking many shots from the same location and framing. The people would change but the location remained the same. What Lisboa’s vision was after he had shot the photographs was quite different to mine even though it incorporated repeat photography. He had a vision for ‘sculpting time’ and wanted to create something cinematic and which had multiple ways of viewing or interacting with the ‘final’ object. He used a connection in Brazil who helped to make acetate layers of the repeat photographs which were then framed in a special box frame with both sides of the frame to look into. I must admit I didn’t understand how it worked but when looking at the box frame from different angles, different people appeared more salient in the same location. This had the effect of compressing time and by looking at and playing with the box, I found it was possible to interact with it for some time. I also appreciated the tangibility of the object, at a time where people don’t tend to print let alone frame photographs. For me it had the effect of creating multiple narratives within the same time frame.

Someone else in the symposium insightfully asked how Lisboa had decided on which people to include in the frame. He answered that it was mostly what interested him in the different people but also said it had been difficult to choose who to include. Lisboa disclosed he had sometimes created multiple versions of the same location just to see which version worked best. I thought this was really interesting because it made me think there might be more than one dimension at a single time in these locations, even if these dimensions were only created through art.

I have shot a lot of images for the composites in my body of work project and so I myself could create varieties of composite (I have indeed experimented this with Assignment 3). I didn’t think to use the variations in composites to play with dimensionality though and this could be a way of communicating something more to the viewer. At the moment my project presents changes in time to place. This is in a linear fashion through the use of repeat photography in diptychs. By exploring the idea of there being multiple possible timelines within a single moment, new narratives could be available to explore.


Lisboa, T. (s.d.) Tom Lisboa. At: (Accessed 01/03/2020).

Lisboa, T. (2018) The Commuting. At: (Accessed 01/03/2020).

Lisboa, T. (2019) Street Topographies. At:  (Accessed 01/03/2020).

Lisboa, T. (2020) Horizons Symposium. Goldsmiths, University of London. 29/02/2020.


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