Hi Tom, it is so lovely to talk to you! First of all, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who are you, where do you come from, where do you live now? Tell us a little about your personal background!
Hi! I am Tom Windeknecht. I was born in Missouri, but I have lived in the Western United States most of my life in Arizona, New Mexico, and California. Currently, I live with my wife in Yucca Valley, California, near Joshua Tree National Park. I am a photographer, content creator, and stop-motion animator. I have been creating content for brands on Instagram since 2016, as well as posting for myself since 2013 as @TomWindeknecht.
What do you do for a living? When did you start with photography?
I work full-time in a marketing department – and the rest of my time is spent doing photography and creating content. I’ve been fascinated with cameras ever since I was a kid. My family always had one when I was growing up for trips and family events. I took a film photography class in high school and learned to develop my own film. But it wasn’t until 2006, when I purchased my first DSLR camera, that I started taking it more seriously. It was a hobby at first, but then I started trying to make it work as a side-business in 2012.
Your pictures are very vibrant and colorful with a minimalistic touch. How did you develop your style? Are pink and blue by any chance your favorite colors?
I’ve enjoyed minimalistic photography for a long time. I love the simplicity of it! It seemed to come naturally for me to implement this into my own work. The colors started not too long after I got on Instagram. I quickly found the colorful and minimal communities and other users on Instagram that were using this style. The colors really had an impact on me and inspired me! So, I started using some colors in my photo edits and realized that when I used pink and blue, that I received a lot more likes and comments on my photos. So, I started using more colors (haha!). I really like the pink and blue color combination. It reminds me of growing up in the 80’s. Personally, turquoise blue is my favorite color!
What inspires you and why?
I get inspiration from a few different sources. Art in general is an inspiration. My wife and I like to go to art museums together. She is an artist, so we both appreciate beauty in art and design. I also get inspired by nature and being outdoors. I live in the desert and there are hiking trails around me. I like walking outside – it helps me to think, clear my head, and think of new ideas. I also get inspired all the time by other creators on Instagram. There are so many interesting people making awesome content, whether it’s photography, video, graphic design, stop-motion, etc.
Could you tell us a bit about your creation process? How do you get your ideas and how do you edit your pictures? Do you plan much ahead, or do you prefer taking pictures spontaneously?
My creation process usually starts with an idea. Sometimes I see something in real life that gets me thinking, or I get a thought in my head that begins a concept. If I am working on brand work, then I usually just start brainstorming ideas and quickly sketch them out on paper. I will try to come up with a few ideas and then limit them down. The creativity doesn’t always come to me right away. Sometimes the ideas come quickly or instantly, and other times I have to work them out of my brain. So, there are times when I don’t have to do much planning at all, and there are times when I have to do a lot of planning ahead. Ultimately, I prefer spontaneous work and creativity…but it doesn’t always work that way (laughing).
When I am editing my photos, I usually begin with an idea in my head of how I want it to look. More often than not though, my initial idea takes off with changes and new creativity.
Your feed is also filled with some really cool stop motion videos! What do you like about these types of videos specifically?
Yes, I enjoy creating the stop motion videos! For me, I feel like they take on a life of their own. You can give an inanimate object a personality or make something ordinary come alive. They are a lot of work to create, and take careful planning, but the end result is what makes them so worth it. I grew up seeing Claymation and stop-motion movies and television shows. Once I learned how they were made, I was fascinated that every tiny little movement is a picture – and then all of those pictures are put together to create the animation. It blew me away!
How and why did you start using Instagram as a platform to share your photography?
When Instagram first came out, it was only available on iOS (Apple) phones. I have always been an Android phone user, so I couldn’t get on when others did. Instagram finally came out with the Android version in late 2012 (or early 2013) and I had a friend that encouraged me to get on. He knew how much I loved photography. At first, I just enjoyed sharing my photography and seeing others work. There was that sense of community and support for others. It wasn’t until around 2015 or 2016 that I started seeing people working with brands – and seeing the term “content creator”. I knew that I wanted to be a part of this, so I began purchasing studio lighting and backdrops and started creating my own content.
Do you have a favorite photograph which you have created? Can you tell us the story behind it?
I have a few favorites, but the top one is probably my vintage sign on a pink background. I’m a fan of retro and vintage signs. I found an old Googie-style sign in San Bernardino, California. It was for an old window & glass company. I took a photo of the sign and then placed it onto a pink background. It’s been on my Instagram since 2014, it’s been printed, sold as print, and shared on blogs.
How do you feel about your IG-community you have built up over the years? We have seen that you have had some awesome collaborations! Did you connect with them through Instagram?
I love my IG-community! I have made some awesome friends online and offline. So many thoughtful, fun, and supportive people have been a part of my journey. I even have some people that we have been following each other since the beginning!
The collaborations started around 2016 on Instagram. At first, I would reach out to brands that I liked to see if they wanted to collaborate. Sometimes I would get opportunities and other times they would decline. It didn’t take long though, before they started reaching out to me. That’s when I knew this could be something big. I feel really lucky and fortunate that I have had so many great opportunities to work with awesome brands (both big and small). My best collaboration ever has been with Google. I have been a #teampixel ambassador for their Google Pixel phones since 2017. It has literally been a lifechanging experience!
Could you name some of your favorite Instagrammers who inspire you?
Some of my favorite Instagrammers who inspire me are Lizzie Darden (@lizzie_darden), Demas Rusli (@demas), Meredith Foley (@meredith_foley), Ivan Wong (@ivvnwong), Erin Summer (@erinsummer_), Leslie Schneider (@splendid_rags), and Andrew Kuttler (@andrewkuttler).
Do you have any cool plans for the future you would like to share?
Yes, I am getting ready to sell some of my prints in a store in Palm Springs, California. I am very excited about this! I also plan on working on more animation work in the future. Plus, I recently started a new account on Instagram for my (not-so-colorful) photography. It includes photos from my travels and the desert area that I live in. You can see that work at @nothingsunknown.
Do you like sending and receiving postcards?
Yes, I do! For me, postcards are nostalgic. When my parents used to take me and my sisters on road trips, I used to like looking at the postcards in the souvenir shops. I liked seeing the photos and fun designs!
Did you know Pickmotion before we started our collaboration? If yes, how did you become aware of us?
I don’t believe I did. But after I saw who you worked with, then I realized how much work that I had seen!
Would you like to share a little anecdote or story with us? Please feel free to tell us anything!
The photo that we collaborated on has a fun story! I had stopped by the dinosaur statues to see them and take pictures. I always thought that the T-Rex dinosaur looked like he was holding something in his tiny arms. I held on to the photo and had plans on posting it. Then, when Instagram used to do their Weekend Hashtag Project (WHP), they did one for WHP “Love”. I remembered the photo, so I took a piece of red construction paper and cut out a heart shape. Then, I took a photo of the heart and Photoshopped the paper heart into the T-Rex’s hands. I added a little shadow to match the natural shadow from his right arm and voila!
You can find Tom Windeknecht's motif "Big Hug" on one of our PICKMOTION postcards! Take a look in a store nearby or get it in a set in our online shop!