Bloom recently had the opportunity to speak with Tom Sanders, the founder of Senior Living Visuals, a company that has been creating films, advertisement photography and artistic portrait series for geriatric related industries for over 12 years.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a photographer, filmmaker and author living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I travel around the country creating films and photo shoots for the senior living/healthcare industries. I created Senior Living Visuals as I discovered there was a need for honest, heartfelt and accurate imagery to represent the senior living/healthcare industries.
What inspired you to pursue photography/filmmaking in senior living?
I had a homework assignment in my senior year of college at the age of 21 to photograph a World War II veteran, which changed my perspective on veterans’ sacrifices. It spurred a project to photograph and document as many World War II vets as I possibly could and turn it into a book. Belmont Village Senior Living Communities discovered my project and sent me to their 20 communities (they now have 28) around the country to photograph all the veterans living in their residences. I had enough material to pitch a book and in 2010 my book, The Last Good War: The Faces and Voices of World War II, was published with Random House. It was named non-fiction book of the year by Forewords Review Magazine. The project of photographing veterans is ongoing with Belmont Village and we update the galleries at their communities every few years. I have been very comfortable working with seniors from a very young age because of my veterans project.
Not to brag, but I have photographed some very famous actors such as Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron, and I was headed in a direction of doing celebrity work until I decided that it is more rewarding to work in the senior living world.
What has been your most memorable project to date, and what surprising things have you learned along the way about working with older adults
My most memorable project to date is my ongoing WWII veterans photo series as the series has a life of its own and has taken me all over the country. Because I spend so much time with people in their eighties and above, I often ponder about lessons I can bring into my life and share with others about getting old.
You have completed so many beautiful projects including Lasting Love and WWII Veterans. Are there any others you are currently working on, or one you would love to do?
I have had two short films I made for senior living companies go viral and seen by millions around the world and it feels good to create films that not only help my clients but inspire people. I made a film about a painter that is going blind and she had such an optimistic view on life even though she was losing her sight at 90 years old. Senior living communities have a wealth of wonderful residents with great stories that need to be shared in short films, and I want to create more inspirational films on seniors. I am also getting a second book published on my Vietnam veteran portraits and their stories, which is coming out sometime next year with Casemate Publishers.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a photographer/filmmaker?
Running my own business as a photographer/filmmaker offers a lot of opportunities to always meet new people and tell their stories. And every project is different, so work is never stagnant and always fun! And my job allows me to spend more time with my family.
If there was one person, past or present, who you could photograph, who would it be and why?
I have always loved taking portraits of musicians because I get a free concert and the musician all to myself. I photographed Jackson Browne at his studio in Santa Monica once and it was Jackson Browne performing a few songs for only the writer and me. It was awesome! I would probably pick someone like Stevie Ray Vaughn as he was one of the best guitarists of all time and I’d get to have him all to myself.
When you are not behind the lens, what can we find you doing?
You can find me hopefully surfing in the cold waters of northern California and spending time with my wife and toddler.
What is the best way to get in touch with you for projects?
My website is seniorlivingvisuals.com, and I can be reached at email@example.com or 805-441-5759.