Tom Patton has been actively engaged in photography since 1970. Tom received a undergraduate degree in photography (1976) from San Francisco Art Institute and graduate degrees (MA & MFA) from the University of New Mexico (1977 & 1982). Patton has held full-time teaching appointments since 1982. From 1983-2002 Patton headed the photography program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis where he was the architect of their BFA program. Tom joined the faculty of the Department of Art and Art History at California State University, Chico in 2002. Tom now heads the photography area at CSUC and works with BA, BFA and MFA students. In addition Patton has ten years experience as Department Chair, five years each at UMSL and CSUC.
With more than 250 exhibitions and 60 publications, Patton's work has been widely seen. Tom received photography fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the James D. Phelan Foundation as well as numerous University grants. Patton's work is included in many public collections including: Australian National Gallery; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; St. Louis Art Museum; Seattle Art Museum; Portland Art Museum; Milwaukee Art Museum; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; and the Crocker Museum of Art, Sacramento.
Citing Shakespeare's famous quotation, "…All the world's a stage, and all men and women are merely players…," Patton writes about his new series of photographs (taken 2004-2011): "The players are strangers; common daily activities are their roles. Framed with lens and time fragmented by the shutter, the actors are fixed in the moment. In surrounds of their choosing, in their everyday clothes, they go about everyday actions: walking, talking, messaging, sitting, or relaxing. Yet, despite their simple routines, these actors dominate the stage, no matter whether it is a backdrop of a built environment or one of overpowering natural wonder….Like theatre audiences, viewing these pictures we're spectators, witnesses to the un-choreographed dramas that unfold frame to frame. These images remind us, I hope, of the frequent grace of life, even in day-to-day existence."
Keith Davis, curator, Nelson-Atkins museum of Art, writes: "Tom Patton's photographs are deceptively and wonderfully complex. These understated works deftly utilize the presumed simplicity of the 'snapshot' to engage some of the most profound themes of modern art and culture: nature, individual consciousness, and the complexities of representation. It is to Patton's credit that these daunting themes are handled with visual grace and frequent humor….These ideas—and others—are all suggested in these gently comic, precisely seen, and thoughtful images."