Tom Baril (American, b.1952) is one of the nation's leading photographic artists and is known for his unique approach to portraying common objects, such as flowers. Baril was born in Connecticut in 1952 and studied photography at New York's School of Visual Arts, graduating with a BA in 1980. Early in his career, Baril was the printmaker for famed artist Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946–1989), but he eventually broke out on his own, and purposely distanced himself from Mapplethorpe's work and style to make a name for himself.
Baril is known for his expert work with 4x5 Polaroid pinhole and 8x10 collodion wet-plate photography. His talent lies in photographing commonplace items and scenes and portraying them in a way that goes beyond the surface. Baril's photographs of sea shells, tulips, bridges, and other architecture capture the beauty, savagery, and sadness of nature. His photos have been featured in two monographs as well as two books, Tom Baril in 1997, and Botanica in 1999. His work has been featured in many publications and collections at institutions including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Fogg Museum at Harvard University. Baril is known for collections such as 10 Flowers, Gum, and DC Portfolio. Baril's early work was rarely exhibited publicly and is primarily known through The American Diner and A Sense of Place. His diner photographs are stark representations of how America once depended on its highways. Many of the diners were shining examples of modern architecture that later fell into disrepair. Both sets of his early work were created between 1977 and 1986, when he was still learning the craft and traveling the U.S.
While distancing himself from Mapplethorpe's work, Baril has continued to print for the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. His technique goes far beyond simple photography and extends into the darkroom. Baril is considered a master of film development using techniques such as applying selenium to prints and placing them in black tea to create a gold patina. Baril lives and works in New York, NY.