Photographer’s Profile: Thomas D. Walczyk

In 1981, Thomas D. (Tom) Walczyk found himself serving the United States Navy in Okinawa, Japan. With the desire to share what he sees, Tom can finally put his Pentax camera to good use. Years of admiring the humble black and white photography of the early to mid-1900’s floods his mind as he begins to capture the people and places in much of Asia. His collection comes full circle today with a thirty-year career in the military and seventy-four documented countries under his belt. Opportunities to live and work on aircraft carriers as well as Navy and Marine Corps air bases abroad has allowed for Tom’s photography to be centered on, but not limited to, aviation operations.

Shots from carriers, cockpits and helicopters enliven his collection. He has discovered a way to share the intensity of everyday life in the military. Serving as a backdrop to state-of-the-art aircraft and other equipment, the rich hues of ocean and sky play an important role in Walczyk’s photography. He is most recently able to capture expansive views with a handy 8-16 mm wide angle Sigma lens. More importantly, Tom keeps loyal to the number one rule in documentary photography – to seek and break that threshold between spectator and participant. He’s been involved in countless proceedings including flying with the Blue Angels, TOPGUN, and twenty-nine different military aircraft models.

An impressive repertoire of Asian, European and Middle Eastern documentary photography allows Tom to contribute to positive United States relations in much of the world. He acknowledges the camera as his initiation tool, but grants the highest respect to his subjects. The power of this attitude defines Tom’s style as he creates bonds with the people and places photographed. Returning with prints for them constantly proves to be the most rewarding part of the work, giving him a chance to strengthen old acquaintances and offer gifts of immeasurable value.

Through his travels, Tom can be considered a primary witness to the steadily westernization of the world. Returning to his work from the early 1980’s, he is overcome with a sense of loss. Intensions of remembering what used to be are clear as he states, “although taking a photo may seem like a chore, it will be valuable many years from now in trying to recollect the good old days.” Night photography is one of Tom’s stylistic choices for creating a portal to the old world. He seeks alternative back lighting such as a full moon or stormy weather to capture the essence of a time and place. Silhouettes and dimly lit objects enveloped by darkness allow for a particular excitement in his photographs. Thus, a sense of ambiguity allows the viewer to get lost in the image.

Several of Walczyk’s photographs were highlighted in the summer of 2011 at Marquette University School of Dentistry in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he attended school before entering the Navy. Thomas D. Walczyk is scheduled to complete his service in the military in 2013. What will not cease are his services to society, as he plans to self-publish books featuring his many locations, experiences, and friendships.


Katelin Walczyk