Hello everyone,

As it is World Photography Day 2020, I’ve been asked to share a little bit about my story and my day-to-day role as Wessex Archaeology’s Photographer and Videographer.

I haven’t always worked as a photographer. I studied Law in University and when I graduated in 2011 there weren’t many law jobs around at all, given that we’d just suffered a financial crisis in 2008 and training contracts with law firms are like gold dust anyway. I did a few odd-jobs for a couple of years and eventually secured a position as a Legal Advisor working for a large International Law Firm in Manchester; a role I was in for almost 3 years. For me, the reality of working in the legal industry was not what I expected, and I found myself wholly unfulfilled in my work. I decided I had to leave.

I had always been interested in film, imagery and photography from an early age. My father used to work for a large cinema chain, and we would often go to watch new movies as and when they came out. I had always been quite creative as a kid as well and felt that this had been somewhat eroded during my education and working life – photography was my route through which to reclaim a bit of this creativity.

In 2018, I went to live in Canada for a year where I worked in a photography store and as a Professional Photographer shooting portraits, landscapes and corporate events. I lived in the mountains, lived and worked with like-minded creative people, hiked and explored on my days off, had encounters with amazing wildlife, photographed awe-inspiring landscapes and developed further a passion for trying to use imagery to convey important messages and stories I believed required attention such as climate breakdown and an appreciation for and stewardship of nature.

Bear photographed in Canada by Tom
Tom's photography from Canada Athabasca Glacier, photographed by Tom

When it came time to return to the UK, I wanted to try and find a role that incorporated education, storytelling and sharing information and expertise with the public. That’s how I came to be the Photographer and Videographer at Wessex Archaeology.

There is a great deal of variety in the work that I do for Wessex Archaeology. I recall, on my very first day, I was presented with a skull to photograph and the detail I had to try and accentuate in the photos were marks and abrasions indicative of decapitation!! This individual had been struck in the head with a sword or some other weapon – TWICE! Since that time, I have had the whole spectrum of archaeological finds come across my desk for photography. From mammoth teeth and bone to flint axes and arrowheads. From Roman Broaches to artefacts of the First and Second World Wars; variety is certainly something that I get in my role.

10 9
Close up flint photography

As well as finds photography I am often out in the field taking working shots on dig sites, taking photos of heritage locations across the UK, visiting our other offices, attending and recording our presence at national science and art fairs, editing films and photos or, more recently, helping to deliver webinars and projects that aim to involve people and give them ownership and responsibility for the project whilst also simultaneously developing an online community – something which I think has been especially important during the recent lockdown and subsequent isolation we’ve all experienced due to the Coronavirus pandemic. I perhaps have one of the most varied roles at Wessex Archaeology – which is great.

Skeleton excavation
Attending the Big Bang Fair, Llandudno Capturing ROV footage
Public engagement with school pupils at Somerset site, Somerset

Isn’t it funny how life unfolds? I used to watch “Time Team” when I was younger and aside from the fact that the show was the harbinger of the close of the weekend and the beginning of the school week the next day, I always enjoyed it and found it really interesting. I never thought, at that time, that I would end up working in the field and working with experts like Phil Harding. It has been a great pleasure to work with and learn from the fantastic experts that we have in house here at Wessex Archaeology. When I’m asked to do finds photography for them or record them doing a piece to camera, for our online platforms or for festivals we’re involved in, I am always learning from them and I’m always fascinated by the passion that they have for archaeology, for the care and interest they have in the people of the past whose stories they’re trying to reveal and tell - their enthusiasm for their work really comes through.

Phil Harding, Wessex Archaeology archaeologist and Time Team alum Rachael Seager Smith, Wessex Archaeology Finds Manager

I’m very fortunate to have a varied role where things can change day by day. I’ve been lucky to work with interesting third parties as well such as Butser Ancient Farm where I was able to document the construction of their new Neolithic house; even having the opportunity to do some thatching and daubing the walls in the process! I was also grateful for the opportunity to work with a team on the production of films for TEDx Salisbury this year.  

Tom having a go at thatching at Butser Ancient Farm The Salisbury TEDx team!

I hope that you’ve found this blog to be of interest and for World Photography Day 2020 I’d encourage you all to get out there with whatever you have (phones, camera etc.) and capture the world as you see it!

Good luck and best wishes!

By Tom Westhead, Photographer and Videographer