When Tom spots you, you’ve been spotted.
Over the last few years, Tom Gilliam has become the go-to photographer for Dayton.com, snapping photos at most of Dayton’s major events every weekend.
We caught up with Tom, our latest Daytonian of the Week.
>> RELATED: Meet Tom Gilliam, founder of DaytonGram
What do you do and why do you do it?
My full-time career is in IT support for Charter Communications. I have been working at the same company for over 22 years (even though it has had many different names) since I was 17 (I'll be 40 in July).
Freelance photography is my second job. On most weekends, I cover at least two events and/or festivals in the Dayton area for photo galleries that are published on Dayton.com the following Monday or Tuesday. Additionally, I write and photograph an ongoing series about historic buildings in the Dayton area called The Buildings of Dayton, also for Dayton.com. Various companies and organizations hire me for commercial photography jobs as well.
Even though computers and technology have always been an interest of mine, I work an IT career as my primary source of income to provide for my wife, son and daughter. Photography started out as a hobby but is now a second career which further helps in supporting my family. With that being said, I still have much love for photography. There are aspects of it that I do for no other reason than simply having fun and creating art.
I'm currently in my fourth year serving on the Dayton History Bell Board at Carillon Historical Park. The board plans and executes two major fundraising events every year (Fleurs de Fête & Ringing In The Holidays). I also contribute my photography for the "Views Around The Park" section of Dayton History's quarterly member magazine, "The Heritage." Giving back to my community is important so I do what I can with the small amount of extra time I have to spare.
I've been playing in Dayton-area bands on and off since 1997. Before I started doing photography, music was my main hobby and only artistic outlet. The name of my band is called Ghost Town Silence. My bandmates are my closest friends Gavin Spencer (bass/co-lead vocals/songwriter), Jason Johantges (rhythm guitar/songwriter) and Brian Winter (drums/percussion). Our name was The Rebel Set from the time we started playing in 2005 until 2014. I play lead guitar, sing co-lead vocals and co-write our songs. We have released the following albums: "Ghost Town Silence" (2008), "Across The Relentless Sea" (2009) and the EP "Shadows" (2015). We're currently writing our 4th album and hope to record it this year. Playing music with my friends is always a lot of fun. The only challenge is lining up our schedules.
What superpower would you love to have?
I would love to have the ability to clone myself in order to be everywhere I need to be and want to be at the same time. My favorite movie is “Back to the Future” so it would also be nice to have the power as a human to travel through time without the aid of a time machine (even though the DeLorean time machine is amazing). Using my time travel superpower, I would go back in time to experience Dayton's past starting in 1796 (the year our city was founded) and visit during important moments in the history of the DYT.
What do you love about life in Dayton?
We really do have it great here. The cost of living in the Dayton area is so much lower than most of Ohio and the rest of the United States. I live in a Cape Cod style bungalow in the Belmont neighborhood in the City of Dayton. Immaculate Conception Church & School plus Belmont Park are closeby, so it’s definitely a nice area to walk my dog Simba and get a little peace and quiet at the Shrine of Our Lady of Belmont. This is definitely considered cliché by some people, but going to a Dayton Dragons game at Fifth Third Field is a special thing for Daytonians and should never be taken for granted. We get to see future Reds players in an early stage of their careers plus current Reds on rehab assignments. The ballpark was also an early catalyst for the redevelopment renaissance we're seeing in downtown Dayton today.
I love that Dayton is a big city with a small-town feel. I can always count on running into a friend or acquaintance when I'm out around town.
There are so many talented musicians and artists here in Dayton! Where do I even begin?
What would you do on a perfect date in Dayton?
Dinner at Blind Bob's followed by a walk in the Oregon District.
>> PHOTOS: Take a look inside the former Schantz house
How did you get involved with photography?
In late 2011, I downloaded the Instagram iPhone app and created a personal account. At the time, my son (who is now 10) would fall asleep in the car after leaving the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Carillon Historical Park and many other places I'd take him to. I started to take drives in downtown Dayton while he was napping since I didn't want to wake him. In order to pass the time and do something productive, I'd pull the car over, park and stop for a minute or two to take pictures of buildings with my iPhone. The first building in downtown Dayton that I posted a photo of was the Conover Building (aka American Building and RTA Headquarters/Wright Stop Plaza). That's where my fascination with photography started. Close to the time that I started posting photos on Instagram, I discovered Dave Schmidt's @cincygram account and we started following each other. Dave's photography of Cincinnati inspired me to start @daytongram on July 10, 2013. I didn't see anyone else on IG at the time with an active account showcasing the Dayton area exclusively so I figured I'd give it a shot. What started as a fun hobby took on another meaning when I realized I could use my photos of Dayton to get people more excited about the city.
What are your favorite things to photograph in Dayton?
Interiors and exteriors of historic and architecturally significant buildings, especially old theaters and churches.
The Dayton Arcade is definitely at the top of my list. In 1993, the arcade was open during Christmastime for "Holly Days", part of the Downtown Dayton Partnership's Dayton Holiday Festival before closing for good after the holidays. I was 15 at the time and got to visit once while it was still open. The place was packed with festive people and decorated with beautiful lights. I've been photographing/advocating for The Dayton Arcade since 2013 so it is an exciting time knowing that its redevelopment/rebirth by Cross Street Partners, The Model Group and McCormack Baron Salazar is imminent on the horizon.
From February 2016 until June 2017, I professionally photographed the construction progress at Delco Lofts every month for the building's developer Crawford Hoying. On Monday, I did a photo shoot at Delco Lofts. The photo shoot made me realize how unique of an experience it was to have been there documenting it's progression from start to finish. Now, I appreciate it even more. Charles Kettering's restored corner office on the 6th floor of the building is now a Clubhouse for residents and a must-see. The new industrial windows that were designed to the original specifications are amazing and the shadows they provide for photography can't be beat!
>> RELATED: Insider’s look at Delco Lofts (May 10, 2017)
My favorite place to take skyline/cityscape photos of downtown Dayton is from Deeds Point MetroPark.
When it comes to photography of the city via rooftops, that's a tie between the Liberty Tower and Delco Lofts. The 20th floor balcony of the Fifth Third Center's penthouse also gets an honorable mention after last weekend's Culture Works Artini event.
What have you learned about this city from taking its pictures?
When I first started doing photography, I used to say that much of the beauty of this city wasn't always visible on the surface. The beauty was always there but you had to have a keen eye and look for it. With all of the redevelopment/revitalization happening downtown and in many of the city's historic neighborhoods, the beauty of Dayton that has always been there is much more visible and refined. I've also learned that the history of Dayton is more extensive than I could've ever imagined. There's much more to our story than the Wright Brothers, NCR, etc. I've also made many connections and friends in Dayton through my photography work. Even though I've being doing photography here for a little less than five years, I feel like I've known the people I've met along the way my whole life.
Where do you go for a great time?
I work a lot so its nice when I get that rare chance to stop at Warped Wing for a beer. There's a great vibe and sense of community at the brewery. Most of the staff have been there since the start so I always know I'm going to see a familiar and friendly face. That's my favorite brewery but I love all of the ones in the Dayton area that I've been able to visit. Yellow Cab Tavern is one of the best places in Dayton. It's an organic community event space ran by a great group of people. Even though most of the time I've spent there has been working photo assignments for various events, I've always had a a wonderful time at the Old Yellow Cab.
When it comes to a great time in Dayton with my wife and kids, we visit the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery and Carillon Historical Park regularly. It also helps that we have family memberships to both places. Some of our favorite Dayton festivals to attend as a family are the Germanfest Picnic & Dayton Celtic Festival (both at RiverScape MetroPark) and the Jewish Cultural Festival at Temple Israel. Young's Dairy (closer to Yellow Springs) is also a family favorite trip to get some ice cream and check out the farm animals.
A lot of what I really love about Dayton is simple. I'm very much a creature of habit so one of my favorite things to do on lunch from my IT career if I'm not using my lunch time for a photo shoot is to park my car by The Dayton Arcade (could be either Third, Ludlow or Fourth Street sides). I will then walk by the arcade to admire its architectural beauty and possibly take some photos with my iPhone even though I've done that walk countless times. After that, I'll cross Third Street and head into Courthouse Square to get a chicken sausage and a Vienna Beef hot dog with Louisiana Hot Sauce (both dogs must have caramelized onions) from Dave Parker at the Dogs for Dogs mobile hot dog stand. Fritos corn chips and a drink are also a part of that particular lunch. Dave and I will usually talk about how bad the Cincinnati Reds are playing (we're both frustrated fans of the team). After I get my food, I'll sit down at one of the picnic tables on the square, eat, relax, listen to the music if there's a band playing and people watch. Other favorite food places of mine include Canal Street Arcade & Deli and Carmen's Deli.
Great times outside of Dayton include going to Reds games in Cincinnati, concerts, day trips around Ohio, zoos and yearly family trips to Walt Disney World.
What would you change about Dayton?
Negative attitudes to positive ones. Though this statement is coming from someone who loves history (especially Dayton's history), we should appreciate the past successes of our city but not expect our present and future to be the same kind of success as had by previous generations. We need to make Dayton the city we want it to be in 2018 and beyond. On social media, I see older generations bashing Dayton (downtown, in particular) from the suburbs and many times from out of state (former Daytonians). I encourage the people who do this on a regular basis to come downtown, experience all of the great things there are to see, do, eat & drink and re-evaluate their feelings. They may be pleasantly surprised that Dayton doesn't suck like they claim it does. Most of the negative people haven't actually visited Dayton in 5, 10, 15 and 20 years. The success of this city is a team effort and I believe that if everyone chips in just a little bit, we will be much better off for it. It could be volunteering at an event, donating money to a local cause, taking the initiative to pick up trash in your neighborhood even if it technically isn't your responsibility or giving time to feed the hungry at a soup kitchen. These are merely examples and I encourage everyone to do what works for them. Our city, like every other city has serious issues to face on a daily basis. However, we should embrace and celebrate the positive things happening in Dayton while continuing to work hard and be the change we want to see here. The negativity will never go completely silent but if we can lessen the noise, that's something for all Daytonians to be proud of.
What should people know about Daytonians?
I'm amazed by the amount of successful charity fundraisers/benefits in the Dayton area. Daytonians have a huge heart when it comes to philanthropy, whether its donating money, time/talent or both to great causes.
Lastly, people should know that Daytonians love free parking!