If you were a drone buzzing high above a city comprised of the most spectacular elements of all the cities you’ve ever seen and imagined, you might come close to picturing the work of Tom Leighton. Of course, you’d have to have been around more than a few blocks and have a positively fathomless imagination in order to see what he allows us to see. More importantly perhaps, you’d have to compound by a factor of five that sinking feeling of elation one gets in the pit of their stomach when looking down from the cloudline. Why? Because Leighton creates a whole new vertigo, that’s why. The kinda vertigo that comes when heightened impossibility is made real.
Okay, so Leighton’s cityscapes are not real. Not really. But they are hypereal. And it’s his seemless blend of reality and unreality that makes what he creates so believable, even if the work is out of this world.
If your work had to be summed up in a single noun, what noun would it be (and why)?
Mirror: My work often starts with symmetry. The mirror image then evolves organically into something more expansive and immersive. A mirror also shows the reverse of reality.
How ‘bout a single verb?
Float: My images regularly leave the viewer floating above the scene, as if in a dream they have the best seat in the house to take in the view.
And a single adjective?
Have you developed some sorta super secret Leighton Process or can just anyone with serious smarts, a keen eye and natural talent pull off your kinda vivid?
There is no secret that I have discovered yet, just taking thousands of pictures, starting hundreds of compositions and filtering them down to one or two that give you the excitement of creating an entirely new environment! It is a panning for gold approach, rather than planning before the shoot.
What got you into hybridizing make-believe metropolis’s anyway?
I have long been interested in how populations flow through the cities they are surrounded by and the degrees of similarity/difference of these metropolis’s around the globe.
My work has developed alongside the possibilities of technology and increasing accessibility of world travel. My images combine these two factors together to document my distorted memories of the places I have been and create visions of where I would like to go.
Is there any particular cityscape you find completely edifying or is it the dearth of edifying cityscapes which drives you to create your own?
My approach to creating fictional cityscapes allows me to cherry pick elements that I find the most edifying. No single picture has to contain the perfect composition and no single city has to either.
That said, what’s the one city that comes closest to being all that you’d want it to be?
Vegas: I certainly wouldn’t describe it as edifying, but I do love it! It’s like I have constructed one of my images and someone has gone and built it! Everything is fake and nothing is where it should be, there is no concept of time and it is an intense centre surrounded by space.
Tom Leighton’s work can be seen among that presented by The Cynthia Corbett Gallery at Art Wynwood.