VoyageAustin Interview

Here is an an interview I did with VoyageAustin on January 26, 2021.

Daily Inspiration: Meet Tom Suhler

Tom Suhler

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tom Suhler.

Hi Tom, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’m a native of Texas who moved to Austin in 1980. Around the age of 13, I realized we only have one time here, so I made it my life’s goal to explore as many different worlds as I could. That led me to wearing many different hats in the fields of sports, entertainment, arts, and business over the past few decades. In a recent career day at Allison Elementary School, I asked the kids to think about how exciting it is just before they open a present because they have no idea what it could be. Every day of their life can be unique and filled with surprises when they explore different things. I let them know that all this is possible for me because when I was their age I learned how to learn. If they get that from school, then they can do anything they want.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I imagine that if you choose to specialize in one or two endeavors it may be a simpler existence. The recurring struggles I’m faced with as I venture into a new arena are that the learning curves can be daunting and finding acceptance in a new community is difficult. It takes a while for people to believe you can do the things you say that you can. It is challenging but I love it. This lifestyle may not work for everyone, but it sure seems to fit me.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Well, as you can imagine from what I’ve said, I don’t specialize in any one thing. I’ve worked as a producer, director, and assistant director in the film industry. I create sculptures with mixed media and explore glasswork. Having said that, the vast majority of art I’ve created in recent years is in storytelling through photography. I create snippets of stories encapsulated in just a single frame. The process of creating these images involves many of the aspects that I enjoy in making movies. There are stories to write, characters to motivate, sets to design and light, and helping actors with their craft. Add to that. It provides greater flexibility in exploring a limitless range of topics and themes simultaneously. Everything from how we interact with the world around us to character relationships, philosophy, psychology, string theory, and all the things curiosity is driving me to explore and contemplate. On set, I am fortunate to work with some of Austin’s most creative and talented dancers and artists in pursuit of telling these stories. Each collection I’ve created has its own set of constraints freeing me up to work within them. But all of them must have a beautiful layer on top supported by deeper layers of meaning and purpose. Plus, everything in the image must be captured on set and in-camera. I prefer to spend my time on set rather than digitally manipulating images on a computer.

What does success mean to you?
One day while talking to my aunt she asked me, “Thomas, are you successful?” I said, “Well, aunt Dessie, mom just died, I have this personal relationship problem, I’m still building this house doing all the construction myself, I just started a new business, and I’ve got this problem and that problem…” And she said, “Are you successful?” Then I thought for a moment and said, “Well, I get to do what I want to do 90% of the time.” She said, “then you’re successful.” But that is just a very egocentric way of looking at success. What’s more important is what someone contributes to other people. With storytelling, it’s revealing different perspectives to people through our own unique lens. Another form of success is contributing to our community. Mentoring is one powerful way to achieve this that we all have access to. I’ve been part of the Seedling Mentoring Program for over 14 years. We mentor kids with an incarcerated parent. I am just one of the hundreds of mentors who have lunch once a week with one of the thousands of children who are part of this community. It’s amazing how less than 1% of your time can impact another person’s life. I know I’m here only because of the hosts of mentors I’ve had throughout my life.

Here is a link to the VoyageAustin’s post.