Tom Vack

Burgundy Roadside © Tom Vack



Tom Vack is a autodidact photographer, born in Chicago in 1948. He studied Architecture
and Design at the University of Illinois Chicago Circle, and worked in Chicago from 1970 to
1987, collaborating with well-known graphic designers such as Rick Valicenti, Joseph Essex, Jilly
Simons, Robert Petrick, Gene Bellini and John Greiner. He then moved to Europe, living in
Italy and Germany, working with renowned international designers and architects such as Michele DeLucchi, Ingo Maurer, Philippe Starck, Ron Arad, Marc Newson, Helmut Jahn, Luigi Colani, Alessandro Mendini, Andrea Branzi and Toshi Kita. In the last 30 years he has been working with companies such as Moroso, Driade, Audi, Sharp, San Lorenzo Yachts, Xo, Hermann Miller, Holly Hunt, Vitra, Magis, Luceplan, Leica, Emu.
In November 2014 the Neue Sammlung – The International Design Museum Munich,
Pinakothek der Moderne, dedicated to him a comprehensive retrospective exhibition about
his work called “Vanity of Object. Tom Vack Design Photography”. With more than 200
pictures, it has described his personal way of communicating avant-garde design from the
eighties to the present.
In 2015, on the occasion of Expo Milano, he photographed the architectural works of
Michele DeLucchi, beginning a path of experimentation and the use of a sophisticated
process of creating panoramic photographs, refined by him over the following years.
In October 2016 the Milano Design Film Festival presented a film documentary about his
carreer in the design field, called “Drunk on light. An American photographer in Milan” directed and produced by Ester Pirotta and Emilio Tremolada.


Tom Vack, one of the protagonists of the international design photography scene from the mid-80s to today, is of American origins, but has lived and worked in Milan for more than thirty
years. His photographs are fully enshrined in the history of design, interpreting the work of some of the most well-known personalities on the international scene, from Ingo Maurer to Philippe Starck, from Michele De Lucchi to Ron Arad and many others. The expressive and interpretative research, combined with the thoughtful use of light through which Vack shapes the volumes and loads them with an intensity and presence – a light with strong contrasts, sometimes dramatic, which Alessandro Mendini defined as ‘caravaggesca’ – allow him to create images of rare formal perfection, where both curved surfaces and those without relief are shaded to obtain a result that is never predictable.
In 2014 Florian Hufnagl curated the retrospective Vanity of object. Tom Vack Photography at
Die Neue Sammlung -The Design Museum in Munich. Through more than 200 photographs,
Vack’s completely personal ability to translate the raison d’etre of the design object into images is saluted.
In the last decade, Vack has opened his professional path to different developments, expanding his photographic experiments and conveying them towards varied experiments, which also draw inspiration from nature and from settings other than the studio.
The “OpenEye” project collects this new part of Vack’s activity, which in parallel with the usual design photography work, transmits a new vision of reality, through a photographic eye that intends to freely capture its surroundings, and then elaborate upon the images, returning them in new forms. “OpenEye” consists of several large-scale work cycles, a format that does not break faith with Vack’s cultural background, with a precise reference to the grand tradition of American photography. Starting from the Manifesto series, works initiated in Milan in 2013 from advertising posters spotted in the streets, on which through décollage he intervenes with a work of overlapping. Here too his American identity can be glimpsed, in addition to the large format.
In a game that winks at Pop Art by expertly measured colours and referring to the iconography
of European classical art, logos and alphabetical fragments from English or Italian words merge until they become pure graphic signs. The overlap becomes more and more evident in Vack’s stylistic code and it is evident from the 2018 Double Visions cycle of works, mainly made in the United States, starting from panoramic photographs ranging from the Grand Canyon, to the urban scenarios of Los Angeles, New York City, Vegas and Chicago in a stratification that manages to synthesize the concept of landscape by abolishing the conceptual boundaries between natural and anthropic.
In 2019 Vack begins to develop the Last Leaves series, maple leaves portrayed in their most bare essentiality. This first cycle called Pure, considers the leaves as individual protagonists of a community, creating images where they are backlit by the light, which through the projection of two shadows, one inside the leaf and one outside, brings them to assume a connotation full of Rorschachian implications.
These also play on the double meaning of the concept of “leaf”, also intended as “leafing
through one’s memories”, up to transforming the individual elements into a community, or
having images of compositions of multiple leaves, generating the cycle of Ensemble.
Subsequently in the group of works called Tattoos, the artist uses the leaves as a screen to
project further images that are photographed again: the artist’s most intimate memories are kept here, with references to the colours of the autumns of childhood spent in Chicago, to the
symbols of American popular culture that convey a message linked to a concept now dear to
Vack, that of overlapping, in this cultural case.
Also in 2019, the artist created the Personae series where the decomposition and overlapping of the image develops starting from tree trunks, stripped of their plant anatomy, to be covered with a new anatomical form of anthropological matrix, in an impeccable fusion that makes these new compositional hybrids assimilable to the most perfect details of classical human nudes, in a brilliant counterpoint developed at the base of the concept of metonymy, a part for a whole, which leads to not seeing any distinction between tree trunk and human body, but which elevates the absolute concept of formal grace, without preconceived classifications.

Viviana Gatica


Tom Vack: portraits of objects

THESIGNSPEAKING, 14 Febraury 2020
Transparency of Andrea Branzi’s work enhances by Tom Vack’s photos

PANORAMA, 14 June 2018
Tom Vack: il fotografo del design in mostra a Milano

Ron Tom Tom: Ron Arad + Tom Vack