Tom Boehme

Changing Seasons

WORDS Adelle McLean  PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Sugden

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An old newspaper article found in a drawer was the inspiration that re-ignited his passion for photography. There it was, amongst the many articles his mom had collected, written about her son during his freshman year at Mount Hood Community College. Tom Boehme read the words he’d once spoken as a young football player. When asked, “If you could do anything else in the world what would you want to do?” Boehme replied, “I want to be a photographer.” 

Tom was standing at the proverbial crossroads of life, after having left his position as a high school football coach, and then dealing with the recent passing of his mom. It was 2001 during the onset of the digital era. He delved into this new chosen medium, taking workshops and seizing opportunities whenever possible. Soon after, once Coach Boehme became Principal Boehme. With camera still in hand, he shot sporting events, and offered his talents to students who couldn’t afford their senior pictures. 

It wasn’t long before Boehme started dedicating his Sundays to collaborating with three of the most influential women in the Portland fashion scene: makeup artist Amy Janik, fashion boutique owner Anne Bocci, and fashion designer Wendy Ohlendorf. Guided by the words of his parents “If you don’t get up in the morning and look forward to the day, you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself” Tom retired from education to pursue his career in photography. He never looked back.

What has it been like building a name for yourself as a photographer? 
I was never satisfied with being as good as other people. There’s a lot of talent out there. I just decided that this is what I wanted my look to be: it’s kind of a 60s or 70s vibe; very simple. My first business name was called, Inner Beauty. The whole idea was, not for me to tell you what to do, but for you to move and bring out what resides within you. I’ve stuck to that and I haven’t shifted.  

How would you describe the type of fashion photography you do? 
I’m very mercenary in my approach, so whatever anybody wants to hire me to do, I will do it. I’ve shot catalog, I love couture, I’ve shot headshots, and I love shooting editorials. It goes back to the football thing: you’ve got people that come together like a makeup artist, a hair stylist, the model, the designer, and you got me. I really like that synergy that happens when it all comes together. That is one of the biggest selfish things that I get out of it: people coming together and making it happen. 

Walk us through a typical photo shoot. 
Usually, the designer and I settle on a topic or concept and start to share inspiration and create a mood board. Then, we’ve got to find the players to come in (recognizing the football reference here, we both laugh). Well, it’s not unlike football. This particular shoot coming up is complicated, so I have no problem asking for help on lighting. There’s going to be up to 13 people involved and several conversations as we lead up to the shoot. The first part is a “hurry up and wait” because the talent is in the makeup and hair and we’re setting up lights which doesn’t take as much time. When it’s ready to go, everybody’s onboard. We just kind of go through each scene as quickly as we can. 

What is one of the most challenging aspects of your work? 
For me, it’s battling a lack of confidence. I’m nervous every time I go into the studio. I don’t think it’s going to work and that’s the demon that I must chase all the time. I don’t think it’s all that different for any creative. 

Most rewarding? 
The most rewarding part is when you bring the team together. At the end, everybody is walking out with a smile on their face – that didn’t always happen as a principal. *laughs*

How does one compete against the next generation of photographers? 
I think digital cameras have made photography affordable for creative people. Whereas before, you had to have a dark room and the cameras were really expensive. I’m always in awe of the way they see the world. It’s different than the way I see it, which is okay. I just try to stay in my lane. I step out occasionally to try something new but, I know what I like and what my eye sees.

How would you describe your experience at Fashion NXT? 
I think that Tito (Chowdhury) has done a great job growing that event each year to where it’s a world-class event. I got in the first year and found out I didn’t like to be at the end of the runway because everybody gets the same shot. So, I asked to be out on the side. I like the fact that it’s a little bit more of an editorial shot. It works well with their websites and I like working with the massive team with Greg Sand and Bonnie Night. They do such a good job and I’m just fortunate to be a part of it.

What experiences helped you take your brand up to the next level? Number one is, you’ve got to practice, practice, practice! Number two, you must surround yourself with people that, hopefully, you can make better but, can also make you better. That’s what I think that comes through in the images and makes things come alive on the page. The big thing is, you can’t do it by yourself.

You know I’m wanting to ask you about being a risk taker but, you’re shaking your head, no? You don’t think you’re a risk-taker? 
I don’t know. I look at myself as a pretty safe guy. I see other people take much bigger risks than I do. I’ve been fortunate on my journey to be able to do a lot of things. 

What have been some of the highlights of your photography career? 
I think the biggest highlight was being recognized by PFSA (Portland Fashion Style Awards). Again, I doubt my work a lot and to have other people acknowledge and recognize it, it was a big thrill. I want to thank Ann Akre and her crew for putting on such a cool event and giving me the opportunity to be a part of it.

You’ve talked a lot about the supporting arts community around you. What’s it like to be part of the Portland scene? 
A cool thing about being in Portland is, it is such a huge, creative space for people and there’s a ton of creatives. Just to be considered part of that is… AMAZING! Not bad for an old football coach/computer-technology teacher who has spent a lot of time training the right side of his brain for the last eighteen years. 

What is next on your photography bucket list? 
I’m excited about this profile in Portland Interview Magazine and there’s some stuff coming up soon with Sonia Kasparian. But it would be cool to go over and shoot an editorial in Europe or Italy of some long, flowing dress on top of an old, brick wall with the Mediterranean behind it. That’s the kind of stuff that makes me excited about potential. I take each day as it comes. People approach me with ideas, or I approached them, and we just make it happen.

In Order of Appearance

Model: Devon Blackerby

Makeup and Hair: Traci Schulz

Designer: Wendy Ohlendorf

Stylist: Jennifer Harris


Model: Megan McCluer

Makeup and Hair: Traci Shulz

Designer: Wendy Ohlendorf

Retouching: Sandi Gagne


Model: Erin Gruber

Makeup: Carrie Strahle

Hair: Sarah Adams

Designer: Sonia Kasparian


Model: Roxanna Walitzki

Designer: Sonia Kasparian

Models: Brenna Tanzosh, Peggy Hoag and Shannon Day

Makeup and Hair: Carrie Strahle

Clothing Provided By: Layneau


Model: Gabi Abraham

Makeup: Megan Blake

Designer: Vanessa Froehling (Fraulein Couture)

Jewelry Provided By: Anne Bocci
(Anne Bocci Boutique and Gallery)


Model: Staci Hart


Model: Kamyar Jahan

Wardrobe Provided By: Collier (Brent Collier)


Model: Katya Prekrasnaya

Makeup and Hair: Lana Mazun