Timothy Archibald


I’m the photographer agencies call to make empathetic photographs of things that are a little bit different, a little bit curious. Human, humorous and sometimes subversive, these qualities seem to surface in every project we take on. I was fortunate to discover photography as a teenager. At that time photography was this license to meet people and enter worlds unlike my own. Having the power to enter other cultures different from the suburban world I lived in was a powerful tool for a kid to have. After leaving school with a degree in Art, I began using this human curiosity to support myself. Photography allowed me to explore the subjects I was fascinated with: learn about them, humanize them, and view them with the full range of human emotions they deserved, in conjunction with a voice that was uniquely my own. These same values come into play with what I’m doing now. Over the past 15 years our photographs have regularly been celebrated in Communication Arts Photography Annual, American Photography Annual and have been exhibited in places as wonderful as The Australian Centre for Photography, Zephyr Mannheim Gallery in Germany and Videotage in Hong Kong. But on the set, my crew and I are really not afraid to admit that we are total photo nerds who love what we do. And that love is infectious in every job we do.

Timothy Archibald.

Photographer based in El Sobrante, CA, USA.


How did you get into photography?

When I was 14, I was living in Schenectady NY. My brother went to a local university and began working as the lab tech in the school’s darkroom. The photography professor there was Martin Benjamin, a truly great photographer, and a passionate teacher. He became a friend of the family and invited me to attend a photo class that summer, which I eagerly attended. He really taught photography as self-expression, rather than anything really technical or commercial. I was an awkward teenager and the idea of having this tool to say something with was like…a lightning bolt from above.

I know you to be a prolific photographer. What motivates you to record your daily life?

Well, I guess I’m considered a commercial photographer these days, but I never really saw it that way. I always thought I was someone who simply had a relationship with photography, and it would be part of my life in different ways. When I had kids in the early 2000s, I was very interested in that whole chapter: the changes in one’s life, one’s role as a parent and an artist, and I did want to have my own shot at sharing the complexities of being a parent- something with depth, honesty, and insecurity. Being a parent is very hard for me, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love it. Those mixed emotions are things I thought others would relate to as well, so I wanted to do work that looked at that.

Through your personal work, I have seen your children growing up. I feel like I know them but have never met them. How does it feel to share your lives? Who is your intended audience?

I was always excited by the idea that the more personal you could make your work, the more emotionally invested your viewers would be with your work. I recognized that with various music artists I liked- songwriter Warren Zevon was never massively popular, but people always seemed to feel like they knew him by his songs…and I had hoped for that small recognition with my own work. I always appreciated the work of the photographer Emmet Gowin, who photographed his extended family in the late 1960s and ’70s. Looking at his work, I felt I knew those people in his photographs too! Knowing his work, of course, I wanted to instill some of that in my own work. And the audience I always think, is someone who may be having a shared experience as well and be asking some questions themselves.

ECHOLILA is a beautiful series about your relationship with your son Elijah. What do you think makes those images resonate with people?

ECHOLILIA is kind of tricky to evaluate for me at this point. That project is a decade old, Eli is 17, and people are still discovering those images and seeing them anew, exhibiting them, asking me to lecture on them…it never really seems to wane. I’m thankful for all of that, but I don’t really take credit for those photographs. The chilly disconnected feeling of those images comes from autism, but I’m guessing the continued fascination with those images must be more broad than that. I think they feel like childhood, they feel like our collective memories from childhood maybe? And beyond what they look like, they do have an emotional strand that satisfies people. Unfortunately, as a working photographer, I can’t deliver that stuff on demand, and I probably can’t do it again.


Outside of your family, who/what inspires you?

I’m 51, and it feels good to see the needs of my ego fading. I used to do projects simply to show the world how original I was or something indulgent like that. At this point, I’m really enjoying the things that are more collaborative- where we all put our egos aside to the needs of the project. I recently did a high-end commercial job collaborating with cinematographer and longtime friend Thomas Broening which was much more seamless than I ever thought it would be. But also love making photographs together with my girlfriend Lisa Mitchell for her Be Mindful brand- a much smaller production but one where it’s all for the good of the project. Then of course teaching works well to pull you out of yourself and get excited by someone else’s growth. I’ve had the priceless opportunity to teach a graduate class in photography at the Academy of Art for three semesters now, and it’s certainly opened up a different part of my brain.

What do you think is the common thread that runs through all of your work?

Always hard to sum these things up and not sound like a cliche, but some human connection and a sense of bringing everything down to earth seems like it surfaces time and time again.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I always seem to enjoy what I’m working on at the moment the most and really am focused on the process.

What has been the hardest lesson you have had to learn?

The hardest lesson of photography has been a constant long before our current era. It’s the idea that even if your work is absolutely GREAT, it still may be a challenge to figure out how to make a living.

How do you think the commercial photography industry has changed since your career began?

For me, I’ve always been in the game but then outside of it as well. The changes in commercial photography have hit like waves but honestly, it was hard for me to make a living in the past and it’s hard now! The only way I can navigate it is to not put too much faith in the highs and not to get too taken down by the lows. Try not to chase trends, try to set yourself up to do your best work, and kindness is always welcome. These things will most likely be constants that can help during the changing commercial market.

How many cats do you have and what are their names?

We have two cats we adopted: Onyx and Tallulah. We also now have an outdoor feral cat that adopted us named Midnight. ( https://www.timothyarchibald.com/my-cats-on-the-internet/1)

All images are copyright © Timothy Archibald

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