Photographer: Tom Gallagher's "Failed Landscapes"

Tom Gallagher is a photographer from Chicago, Illinois where he is the owner and operator of Eleven 9 Studio where he provides photography services as well as sells his fine art prints. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Southern Illinois University in 2005 and has since lived and traveled abroad extensively, which has shaped his interest in context and landscape. Through this interest, he now specializes in innovative and expressive landscape and architectural imagery that portrays an unique understanding and connection of both urban and natural environments. 

Gallagher started working with Polaroid cameras and instant film in 2002 and has since witnessed the demise of Polaroid films and the birth of the Impossible Project. He often utilizes mechanically faulty Polaroid cameras and expired or compromised Impossible Project film stock to create photographic abstractions that display wildly unexpected results which often include magical color shifts and uneven chemical spreading, the magic of instant photography.

"Photography is the language of thoughts and memories that document my experience and presence in the world. My relationship with photography began as a personal narrative. With age and exploration, I came to recognize it as the most effectual way to communicate."

Tom Gallagher’s series, “Failed Landscapes,” evokes a sense of wonder. His images recount stories of a world that exists outside of time. Using his faulty equipment and expired film, Gallagher has created abstract environments that give us a glimpse perhaps, into the origins of the world, or perhaps into the process of its deconstruction. There is something primal, elemental about his compositions, inviting us to look closer. We take away notions that there are deeper forces at work here, some processes that we don’t quite comprehend dwelling beneath the surface. Considering that all of his photos are created with instant integral film, his series is truly about what happens underneath the surface of things.  

After shooting his surreal landscapes, Gallagher creates high-resolution scans of his photos with the intent of producing large format prints. The textures and cracks evident in the images invite close inspection. He sometimes scans his images before they have completely developed in order capture the emerging colors, particularly the blues and purples, before they disappear.  

He shares with us, "The photograph as a document is stronger than memory; it depicts the truth in most cases,”  Gallagher says.  "But the goal of Failed Landscapes is to not to document, but to create atmosphere, something surreal and richer than a visual experience".

The following collection presents a select number of Polaroids chosen from the hundreds that Gallagher has shot, excluding the ones that did not produce forms as visually interesting or evocative.

See more of Tom Gallagher's work and connect with him on his website and Instagram, and Facebook!


Anne Silver is an instant photography aficionado who lives in Paris, France and is a member of the 12:12 Project. Connect with Anne Silver on her Website and on Instagram!