Surreal Photography with Thomas Dodd

Thomas Dodd, an artist based in both Nashville and Atlanta, creates photographs that penetrate the soul, evoking immediate emotion and curiosity. Dodd’s style of fine art falls under a burgeoning new realm in the art world: surreal photography. Though his medium is photography, as you’ll see below, his works more closely resemble paintings.


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It’s hard to miss the religious and mythological themes that show up in Dodd’s work. And the friction created between his contrasting images of good and evil, life and death, and light and darkness are what bring his works to life in a dramatic fashion. I’m not a student of art history or studio art, but Dodd’s work makes me wish I were, as it seems to beckon to the past and future simultaneously.


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Dodd only recently began his career as a visual artist in 2005. Before this, he had a career as a professional harpist and songwriter with a Celtic Gothic ensemble called Trio Nocturna, where he had the opportunity to play at Anne Rice’s annual Halloween balls in New Orleans. His musical background provides some great insight into his current art: if one could put Dodd’s photography to music, the end result would surely include harps being played in a modern way.


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Dodd’s manipulated photography is much more than glorified cut-and-paste Photoshop work. In fact, he strives to assemble his scenery, costumes and models at the time of the initial shoot, and then digitally manipulates them with an attention to detail and texture that leaves the viewer wondering where “real” and “imaginary” begin and blend.


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Dodd works out of Atlanta and Nashville and is commissioned for portrait work as well as internationally for photo-editing assignments. We interviewed him recently and had a chance to learn more about his unique approach:


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Where in Nashville and Atlanta is your work displayed?

In Nashville, I have some limited edition prints for sale and a few of my large scale pieces on display at Gallery One. In Atlanta, I show my work at Mason Muir Fine Art and also do an annual show in October in conjunction with Atlanta Celebrates Photography month.
Tammy Parmentier (photo by Nina Covington)

Thomas Dodd with Gallery One owner, Tammy Parmentier (photo by Nina Covington)

How long does it take to create each piece of art, once shot?

It varies. Sometimes it may only take a few hours. And then some pieces can take weeks, depending on the complexity and the amount of detailing that I do.


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Does each shoot culminate in one piece or can several works come from the initial shoot?

I typically do one edit per wardrobe change or “look,” but there have been some models who are so inspiring to me that I end up doing many, many edits from one session.

What artists, past and present, influence you today?

I am influenced predominately by painters: I like the Renaissance masters for the way they rendered skin tones and lighting (particularly Caravaggio and Rembrandt) and am probably most influenced stylistically and thematically by two movements from the late 19th/early 20th Centuries: the Symbolists (especially Gustav Klimt and Edvard Munch) and the Pre Raphaelites (John William Waterhouse in particular). There are also elements of Maxfield Parrish and Giuseppe Arcimboldo in my work. I am also a huge supporter of the modern realism movement in painting which was spearheaded by the great Norwegian painter Odd Nerdum and is now being propelled by younger painters like Richard T. Scott and Alexandra Manukyan. Photographers who have had an impact on me are the Czech erotic photographer Jan Saudek, and the great fashion storyteller Helmut Newton.


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Can ‘normal’ people commission you to have their image made into a piece of your art? Can you explain the process and collaboration?

Yes, absolutely! People can hire me to do a commissioned portrait of them, either in my studio or on location. I approach these kind of shoots, be they family portraits or images of children, exactly as I do my model shoots. The goal is to craft a unique piece of art, not do a typical family portrait that you could get anywhere. I have become quite adept at capturing people’s essence in my work and this lends itself quite well to the family portrait.
For those people who may not be able to afford my portrait services or who are not in the same area as I am, I do offer my editing service though my Facebook page (click here). You can send me a picture via email ([email protected]) and for $100, I will edit it in my painterly style and send it back as a digital file that you can have printed anywhere.This is a very simple and affordable way to have me craft an image for you.

Was there a turning point for fine galleries to start accepting surreal photography as fine art?

Surrealism and fantastic photo manipulation have always been entwined within the history of photography, perhaps even more so in the fine art world. Over the decades, there has often been a battle between the purists who view photography as documentation only and artists who view it to be like any art form and thus can be whatever the creator imagines.
I believe there is room for everyone to pursue their visions and I respect traditionalists and innovators both–we all have our place in the creative world! Thankfully, most galleries are in agreement with me in realizing that the end result is really all that matters, not the methodology used to achieve that result!



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A Little Bird Told Me




Thank you, Thomas!

If these pieces speak to you and you’d like to have your own photo artistically edited by Thomas Dodd, we hope you saw that for only $100 (WHAT?!!), you can email him a photo and you’ll receive his artistic, edited version, digitally.

For an example of what to expect:





I hope you are just as blown away as I am. Truly stunning.