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Thomas Dallas Watson has developed a thriving career as a photographer in the
city, while building a fully sustainable ‘tiny home’ with his own hands in the country.
Between riding on dirt bikes through the forest, mulling over his latest exhibition
subject, or taking portraits of faraway places, Thomas meets his dreams head on,
always ready for the next big project.

Thomas Dallas Watson has developed a thriving career as a photographer in the city, while building a fully sustainable ‘tiny home’ with his own hands in the country. Between riding on dirt bikes through the forest, mulling over his latest exhibition subject, or taking portraits of faraway places, Thomas meets his dreams head on, always ready for the next big project.

How did your journey with photography begin?
Because of the family connection, I was playing around with
cameras from a pretty young age. I developed quite a passion
for it as a hobby and was enamoured by the analogue process.
These were pre-digital days: shooting film in the 90s as a
teenager and just experimenting. I spent five years travelling,
living in different countries, taking photos. That’s when I
thought that photography could be a good career path and
decided to jump in and give it a crack. I applied for RMIT from
Japan, did a phone interview, flew from Tokyo to Melbourne
and started studying.


What’s it like working as a freelance creative in the inner city?
A good thing about Melbourne is that it’s got a really healthy
art scene, which has allowed me to engage with my passion
for contemporary fine art and photography. Being in that
environment is very motivating. As a student, I went to a lot
of shows and put on a few myself. For one, I went through all
my grandad’s archival images and found images of when I was
the same age as him and did a kind of comparative exhibition –
looking at the similarities between our lives, fifty years apart.
Commercial photography is very different, but it still has its
roots in creativity.

How did your journey with photography begin?
Because of the family connection, I was playing around with cameras from a pretty young age. I developed quite a passion for it as a hobby and was enamoured by the analogue process. These were pre-digital days: shooting film in the 90s as a teenager and just experimenting. I spent five years travelling, living in different countries, taking photos. That’s when I thought that photography could be a good career path and decided to jump in and give it a crack. I applied for RMIT from Japan, did a phone interview, flew from Tokyo to Melbourne and started studying.


What’s it like working as a freelance creative in the inner city?
A good thing about Melbourne is that it’s got a really healthy art scene, which has allowed me to engage with my passion for contemporary fine art and photography. Being in that environment is very motivating. As a student, I went to a lot of shows and put on a few myself. For one, I went through all my grandad’s archival images and found images of when I was the same age as him and did a kind of comparative exhibition – looking at the similarities between our lives, fifty years apart. Commercial photography is very different, but it still has its roots in creativity.

You mentioned Tokyo – what other memorable
places have you photographed?

Outside of the two years in Japan, and living in
Canada, I spent six months in South America. I
really loved that time. I was right into documentary
photography and got some really beautiful
photographs. My sister married a Chilean, so
our family and theirs have been really close for
decades. They have farmlands outside of Santiago,
so whenever I’m there we go horse riding and travel
around together. Another little project I’ve started is
on the gardens in Singapore. I plan to go back soon
and put a little book together, maybe self-publish.

Closer to home, could you tell us about your
property in Three Bridges?

About five or six years ago, I was disheartened with
Melbourne’s housing market, so I started looking
for a block of land in the upper Yarra Valley region.
It was a combination of wanting to have somewhere
to go outside of the city, and also to have a project.
I have a lot of energy for building and DIY. The
property here was perfect – it has the creek, the
forest, and a flat spot for the house, plus the sun in
the middle of winter.


So, you did all the work here yourself?
It started with a caravan, then I decided I’d build a
‘tiny home’. It was like a covid project, essentially.
Work was quiet for a period, so I managed to find
a builder who showed me what I needed to know.
Under his direction, I built the cabin and fitted it out.
And when it was done, we hooked it on the back of
an army truck and towed it out to the property.

You mentioned Tokyo – what other memorable places have you photographed?
Outside of the two years in Japan, and living in Canada, I spent six months in South America. I really loved that time. I was right into documentary photography and got some really beautiful photographs. My sister married a Chilean, so our family and theirs have been really close for decades. They have farmlands outside of Santiago, so whenever I’m there we go horse riding and travel around together. Another little project I’ve started is on the gardens in Singapore. I plan to go back soon and put a little book together, maybe self publish.


Closer to home, could you tell us about your property in Three Bridges?
About five or six years ago, I was disheartened with Melbourne’s housing market, so I started looking for a block of land in the upper Yarra Valley region. It was a combination of wanting to have somewhere to go outside of the city, and also to have a project. I have a lot of energy for building and DIY. The property here was perfect – it has the creek, the forest, and a flat spot for the house, plus the sun in the middle of winter.


So, you did all the work here yourself?
It started with a caravan, then I decided I’d build a ‘tiny home’. It was like a covid project, essentially. Work was quiet for a period, so I managed to find a builder who showed me what I needed to know. Under his direction, I built the cabin and fitted it out. And when it was done, we hooked it on the back of an army truck and towed it out to the property.

It sounds like a perfect balance between the two
worlds.
From a lifestyle perspective, it is. As a freelancer, I’ll
have weeks where I’m flat out, and then have enough
time off for my passion projects. I feel very lucky that
I have that freedom to come here and work on the
cabin, the gardens and landscaping. We’ve planted
2,000 native plants. And we’re all off-grid, with solar
panels and batteries, a proper composting toilet and
rainwater harvested from the roof. It’s a fully self-
contained little set-up. When storms hit, you can be
out of power for a week. We’re the only ones with
the lights still on, so my neighbours will come to
charge their phones. When I’m not here, I let out the
cabin to people. So that’s another good balance, and
it’s nice to share all your creative energy and hard
work with others.


Downtime on the property sounds pretty busy too!
Well, there are lots of days where I won’t do
anything much at all. I’ll be sitting out here having
cup after cup of tea. Then I’ll take the dog for a
walk and go on the motorbike. I’ve got a couple in
the city and the dirt bikes out here. They’re another
great little hobby – whether touring the roads on a
motorcycle, or riding in the dirt. I’ll also commute a
lot in town with them and recently did a trip over in
Tassie with friends. I just love the freedom machine.
It’s a lot of fun.

It sounds like a perfect balance between the two worlds.
From a lifestyle perspective, it is. As a freelancer, I’ll have weeks where I’m flat out, and then have enough time off for my passion projects. I feel very lucky that I have that freedom to come here and work on the cabin, the gardens and landscaping. We’ve planted 2,000 native plants. And we’re all off-grid, with solar panels and batteries, a proper composting toilet and rainwater harvested from the roof. It’s a fully self contained little set-up. When storms hit, you can be out of power for a week. We’re the only ones with the lights still on, so my neighbours will come to charge their phones. When I’m not here, I let out the cabin to people. So that’s another good balance, and it’s nice to share all your creative energy and hard work with others.


Downtime on the property sounds pretty busy too!
Well, there are lots of days where I won’t do anything much at all. I’ll be sitting out here having cup after cup of tea. Then I’ll take the dog for a walk and go on the motorbike. I’ve got a couple in the city and the dirt bikes out here. They’re another great little hobby – whether touring the roads on a motorcycle, or riding in the dirt. I’ll also commute a lot in town with them and recently did a trip over in Tassie with friends. I just love the freedom machine. It’s a lot of fun.

Much appreciation to Thomas for inviting us to experience a glimpse of his naturally
inspiring lifestyle and blissful cabin with calming views. A self-sufficient ethos and
rugged approach are reflected in Thomas’ choice of Rossi boot – the Endura.

Much appreciation to Thomas for inviting us to experience a glimpse of his naturally inspiring lifestyle and blissful cabin with calming views. A self-sufficient ethos and rugged approach are reflected in Thomas’ choice of Rossi boot – the Endura.

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February 9, 2024

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Leader of the Pack

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