Thomas Hawk: “I’m trying to capture 1 million photos before I die”

"I think of myself as a photography factory," says photographer and blogger Thomas Hawk, who has embarked upon a journey to shoot and publish 1 million photos before he dies.  "I am obsessed with photography, but I think an obsession can be the same thing as passion."

Thomas, in his mid-40s, carries his camera everywhere he goes for fear that he may miss a great photo opportunity. But he still has a long way to go in order to achieve his goal.

"I’ve almost uploaded 79,000 photographs to Flickr," he says. "I have another 22,000 or so photographs that are ready to go on Flickr."

Night Falls   If You See Her Say Hello

His "love affair" with photography started when he got his first Kodak Instamatic camera as a 7-year-old. At 15, his parents bought him his first SLR before he took a bicycle trip across America. "Riding your bicycle across America when you are 15 really gave me an early appreciation for America," Thomas says.

Second Nature

In his quest to take 1 million photos, one of the things he wants to do is document America’s 100 largest cities.

"I think I have shot maybe 36 out of 100 so far," he says. "I want to shoot the entire country in the most comprehensive and substantial way it has ever been done."

Heading Home   It's Saturday Morning

Honky Tonkin   Coroner

Thomas specifically wants to capture the parts of America that are temporary before they disappear.

"I think people will want to go back in the future and remember a different type of America; a place that was unique to their time frame," says Thomas.

Architecture is one aspect of Americana that is always changing. He cites Detroit as a perfect example.

"Detroit is in massive decline. There are tens of thousands of abandoned structures in Detroit. There is nothing like that in the world, really, that I have ever seen and I want to capture that and show that part of America before it’s gone."

Big Joe Worked In That Office He Said   Faded Afternoons, Plate 3

No Dark Sarcasm in the Classroom   My Intentions They Were Pure, Plate 2

Thomas is also fascinated by neon signs, which are also fading away. "Back in the day, before things like florescent light bulbs were around and plastics, a neon sign was a great way to draw someone to your business; it was very bright and vivid," he says. "So much of that signage is torn down and is going to be lost and gone forever."

Those Northern California Nights   Little Birdy

Be a Good Little Monkey and Whatever You Do Don't Be Too Curious   Joe's

He also loves the people of America because they are all so different depending on the part of the country. "You’ll shoot people dressed to the nines out on South Beach in Miami. You’ll shoot people in New York with their sort of unique fashion sense. But then you’ll go to someplace like Fort Worth, Texas and you’ll find a whole different culture: You’ll find cowboys."

Smoke and Blues   Fort Worth Cowboy, 2011

Consumating South Beach   The King of New York

"I think the world is such a beautiful place," Thomas says. "Every place I go I am convinced it is my favorite place, and yet I go to someplace else and that place becomes my favorite place."

But his desire to shoot 1 million photos in his lifetime does not come easy. It is a struggle to keep up such a rapid pace.

"It is a lot of hard work being out there on the road and shooting, by no means is it easy," he says. "If I decide to go to a city and I’m gonna shoot for 20 hours, and I am going to sleep for four, and I am just exhausted at midnight, the last thing that I want to do is get up in the morning at 5 am for sunrise. That’s hard."

There is also a struggle to find time with his family in between his day job as an investment advisor and his ambitious goal. He is married, with four young children. "It’s a struggle to keep a certain amount of balance in my life with my family, and making sure I give them enough time at the same time I’m pursuing this passion," he says.


"Do I feel like time is running out, ever?  Yeah," Thomas says. "You only have so many breaths and then you’re gone. So there is a race against the clock in a way. I try to really maximize the time I do have."

While he doesn’t know if he will be able to reach his goal, he’s certainly going to keep trying.

"For me it is a way for me to keep my focus to keep working with an intensity that I think produces the work that I want to do," he says. "It takes incredible discipline drive and passion to accomplish big things and I want to accomplish something big with photography."

Visit Thomas’s photostream for more of his photography.

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