Silvia Tomarchio was named the first ever recipient of the Luminous Grant, which is a part of the Luminous Project launched last year by the AIPP’s national board to “support those who shine”. As a part of the grant, Silvia will attend the 2016 Nikon AIPP event and the Annual Gala Dinner at the end of August.
“Get yourself a real job,” were the words of a teacher that diverted Silvia Tomarchio from becoming a professional photographer for almost three decades. She instead became an award-winning hairdresser, but photography continued being the channel through which she could most easily express her “inner voice”.
“Photography allows my internal voice to be captured in stills”, says Silvia.“My cameras channel external stories through my inner being.” Her fascination with cameras and their ability to “see beyond what is [physically] there” began well before she learnt to walk.
Silvia’s father had the habit of carrying an old antique camera around his neck to capture as many of life’s moments as possible. So when Silvia was unexpectedly born while her parents were on a ship immigrating to Australia from Italy, it was there to capture it frame-by-frame.
Fascinated, she spent hours as a young child studying the photos that documented her dramatic entrance into the world in such unique circumstances. Every time she looked at them, they revealed something new. So as soon as her little hands were strong enough to hold her dad’s camera, she began discovering what she describes as unique dimensions only the lenses have the ability to see.
“Photos allow you to pause to enjoy and absorb each moment,” she says. “It's all about the light from within, not only seeing but feeling each moment as it is being captured. Forgetting the names of things, transcends it into light, form and shape.”
Silvia used her baby nieces as models for her first photoshoots. “They were like living dolls to me. I would change their clothing and their poses between shots, and they seemed to enjoy it too,” she says laughing. Her love of photography has engraved deeply into her “soul” over the years. Her father – a witness of that – has gifted Silvia that very camera that captured her birth once she turned 20 years old. Silvia has always used photography as a “meditation” and a “relaxation” tool, as well as a “coping mechanism” to overcome life’s trials.
“I often go to the beach on my own, sit on the rock and watch the waves break. It teaches me to go with the flow of life. It really is like a form of therapy,” she says. She also has always enjoyed sculpture, painting and drawing and competed varies arts courses over the years. But seven years ago everything turned upside down.
“My husband had a stroke while we were overseas on family holiday, my youngest was only 10 months at the time. It was hard. I cried almost every day,” she says. One morning she got up realising she forgot how to see the beauty in the world and in the people around her. But she knew that the camera lenses had the ability to see it for her.
“Even though I couldn’t really afford it, I went and bought myself my first professional camera for $1,500 that day”, she says. “As soon as I began shooting, I started seeing everything beautiful again and most importantly, I started seeing people beautiful again. I was so shut off from everyone for so long.” Silvia spent the next four years independently learning about photography through reading, shooting, doing community courses and joining varies community groups and clubs, as well as working with other photographers. She then decided to get formal training in photography to finally pursue it as a “real job”.
“I have three beautiful daughters, who are my main priority in life. I want them to grow into strong independent women”, says Silvia. “I wanted to show them that you can still be your own person and follow your dreams despite what life throws at you.” She is now only a six subjects away from completing her Diploma of Photo Imaging at the Melbourne Polytechnic and has set up her business, Silvia Tomarchio Photography, based in Melbourne’s Taylors Hill. Apart from running her business, Silvia always has side projects and has held exhibitions organised by her local council.
Silvia’s main calling in life is to find ways to help people through photography. Her work is often focused around varies social issues, such as racism and bullying, imbedding “important social messages”. But she says her main aim in her work overall, is to give all of her images a “voice”, an “echo”, telling its own story. In the past 12 months alone, Silvia has pocketed three AIPP Awards (Gold distinction in the 2015 AIPP Victorian Epson Professional Photography Awards, as well as Silver distinction in 2016 and Silver in the 2015 Canon AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards and), and was named the very first recipient of the Luminous Grant.