We recently welcomed aspiring young photographer Tom Hacker to Design District to get some real-world insight into the creative industries. Tom was under the mentorship of seasoned pro Taran Wilkhu as part of Ardagh Young Creatives — a programme led by the Design Museum to create pathways into design for 14 – 16 year olds from underrepresented backgrounds. We spoke with Tom and Taran about their experience photographing the district’s tenants together.
Design District (DD): Hello Tom and Taran, it was great having you both here as part of this mentorship programme. Taran, how did you come to be involved with Ardagh Young Creatives?
Taran Wilkhu (TW): In spring 2021, the Design Museum made a call out for creative mentors. I was thrilled to be selected as I believe that programmes such as these are fantastic opportunities for both the mentor and mentee to develop communication and personal skills, build networks and understand the realistic promises and potential pitfalls of a particular industry. This programme was specifically of interest to me as the focus was on supporting young people from underrepresented backgrounds. I only wish there had been programmes like this for myself growing up in the 1980s.
DD: How did the two of you wind up working on a Design District shoot together?
TW: Having gotten to know Tom, and having met his parents, I was keen to invite him to experience a day-in-the-life and join me on a photoshoot. The brief on the day was to capture portraits of some of the tenants, including the likes of Ashley Joiner (Queercircle) and Daniel Bailey (Conceptkicks). The project itself was a huge success and the shoot was later featured in the Evening Standard.
Tom Hacker (TH): Photography has been a main interest of mine for a long time, working with different techniques and formats, so I think one of the reasons the wonderful team at the Design Museum paired me with Taran was to have interesting conversations about photography and the world around it.
DD: Tom, how did you find working in a professional environment?
TH: It was great, a real breath of fresh air and it was exciting to gain that experience and learn.
DD: What did each of you learn from the other?
TH: From working with Taran I learnt certain more technical aspects of digital photography. I had always been more captivated by film, however assisting Taran on this shoot was a real eye-opener on digital photography in general.
TW: I really enjoyed the experience of connecting with Tom as it gave me an opportunity to re-enforce my own knowledge of photography whilst also learning from Tom about new perspectives. It gave me space to step back and reflect on how I communicate and navigate a shoot day. From the outset, I was keen to drop any perceived hierarchy and wanted to keep an open mind throughout the mentorship programme. One wonderful benefit of working with Tom was that I was able to gain a real insight into a younger perspective — not only how young people look through the lens but also how they see career paths potentially opening up for themselves.
DD: Taran, what are your hopes for Tom and the next generation of creatives?
TW: Whether Tom decides to take up photography, go into publishing or switch to a non-creative career path, I believe the experience in itself will be beneficial to at least understanding the highs and lows of the industry. With the introduction of artificial intelligence and the Metaverse around the corner, who’s to say that my method of working won't be seen as prehistoric by the time Tom graduates? There’s so much both generations can learn from each other in the constantly evolving creative world of today.