Tommy Meyer’s home on Lake Lanier has a sunset view, and just about every day, he captures that view through a lens.
For about five years, Meyer has been working consistently as an adventure photographer — taking photos of landscapes while out on ambitious hikes — and will have his work on display at Inman Perk in June.
“I do photography as a passion and a serious hobby,” Meyer said. “I go out on mountains and take pictures of landscapes and waterfalls and all kinds of stuff like that. So I have to hike in order to do what I do. So it’s some physical stuff involved.”
He’s a part of The North Georgia Photography Club, which selects the artwork and photographs that rotate each month at the coffee shop on the downtown Gainesville square. Lisa Saines is the one who curates the collections, making sure there’s always a local artist’s or photographer's work displayed.
“There are not a lot of locations where local artists have the opportunity to show their work,” said Saines, a photographer who works full-time as an accountant. “We rotate (the art) monthly or every two months to give anybody that wants the opportunity to show their work … It’s a great way to encourage people to print their work, frame their work and put it on display.”
For Meyer, who also owns a construction company, having his photographs hanging in a shop wasn’t something he knew could happen.
He enjoyed photography at a young age, taking photos at birthday parties and for Christmas cards. The hobby grew into a side-business in wedding photography. But in 1985, when his construction company started to take off, the first thing to drop off was his photography.
He still took photos during holidays and at family events, but what he truly enjoyed — getting outside to enjoy nature and capture its beauty — was no more.
He was always looking for a way to get back into it, but with the construction industry taking hit after hit, some of the biggest in 2001 after 9/11 and again during the Great Recession, Meyer wasn’t focused on photography at all.
“There’s always fluctuations in the construction industry,” Meyer said. “The big, gigantic crash in 2007, that actually lasted five years for us. That was absolute survival mode. Photography was not on my mind. Campbell’s soup and everything else was on my mind.”
Altogether, he took about 19 years off from photography and said he’s embarrassed to even admit it.
But in 2014, when a friend asked him to go on a fishing trip to the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, he jumped at the chance. Little did he know, that trip would help him rediscover his old passion.
“Seeing that landscape just rekindled the fire of doing more quality photography, something more than an iPhone,” Meyer said. “That’s when I started investing in better equipment.”
He’s gone back to the wilderness three times since then because of the beauty he said he saw there. He calls it “the land of the 360.”
“You can look anywhere in a 360 degree radius and see spectacular scenery,” Meyer said. “You’re out there and maybe the only foot tracks you see all week are your own. It’s just incredible, an incredible place.”
He’s hiked to the top of Haystack Mountain on the more than 1 million-acre wilderness by himself and camped overnight, just to get a shot of the sunrise on the Continental Divide.
Some other visitors to the Bob Marshall Wilderness who made the same hike saw his photos and wanted to purchase them. That’s when Meyer made the leap from only posting on Instagram to actually printing the images.
After selling to them and finally getting back into photography, he discovered the North Georgia Photography Club and found a community of people he could teach and learn from at the same time.
And once he started printing his photos, he decided he should share them with others locally. He got talked with Saines and got on the schedule to have his photos displayed at Inman Perk. He’s excited for the interaction he may get once they’re hanging there.
“I just think it’s an interesting thing to do,” Meyer said. “I’m not really looking at any monetary value or what I can get out of it, but more of a display to just show people who I am and what I do.”
Saines said when the artists and photographers get on the schedule — which is booked until February of 2020 — and finally see their work on the walls, something happens inside them; it gives them confidence they may lack and encourages them to continue pursuing their craft.
For most artists and photographers, it’s not about making any money or selling their work. It’s simply about making spaces more enjoyable and pushing themselves to do more.
“It allows artists to see other artist’s work and it encourages them to get involved,” Saines said. “It’s not a competition. They’re not entering any challenge with it. They’re just displaying their work. But once they’ve done that, it gives them more confidence.”
Meyer is hoping his photos hanging on the walls at Inman Perk will inspire others to do just that. He hopes photographers and artists are inspired to get out and look around at all there is to see.
“It’s a good way to showcase the neat atmosphere in North Georgia,” Meyer said. “We have some very talented people here … I’m just thankful to be able to present my work and I think it’s going to be fun.”