In this episode we talk with guest Tom G. O'Neal about Adapting to technology, photography, dancing and creating from the heart.

Tom G. O'Neal
Instagram tomgoneal

Opening 0:06
Start of interview 3:42
Who is Tom G. O'Neal 11:43
Using technology as a photographer 17:58
Breaking foundational rules 23:19
Collaborating with others 25:16
Universal truths when working with technology 33:34
Recommended books 38:29
Favorite album cover 53:14
Closing 58:02

Mentioned Books


Hosted By:

Brian Comerford

Nick Lozano

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Show Transcripts:

Brian Comerford 0:06

Thanks for joining us for another edition of lead.exe.

I'm Brian in Denver Colorado.

Nick Lozano 0:12

And I'm Nick Lozano in Washington DC.

Brian Comerford 0:15

And today we're joined by a very special guest, Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal.

Nick Lozano  0:21

What's a Gundelfinger?

Brian Comerford  0:26

That's a legitimate question.

There's more on that topic. But Tom falls outside of many of the guests featured on the show so far. But he's someone that we felt passionate and strong about bringing on board the program, not only for his experience with technology, which is primarily in photography, which has been an evolutionary path for how he has had to adapt and change with his own work with the technology as well, leadership decisions around that. But also, just because Tom's one of those fascinating characters, he's got a rich life story. And what a great leader doesn't come with a great personal story as well.

Nick Lozano  1:13

Ya know, and I've known Tom for probably about 10 years now. And he is just such a personable person. He's genuine and authentic. And I feel like that that really helps people open up to him when he's taking photographs. I don't know Brian, like, if you can, but I can always tell when I see you know, like the wedding engagement photos and when I can tell that the people have no rapport with the photographer at all. And they just look look like Hurry up. Let's get this picture over with

you know, and then you can always tell when people are enjoying it and they they like the photographer they have a relationship he did they get him to relax and open up, you know, because, because the other way around, then everyone else looks like a Marine Corps general smiling. I don't know if you ever seen a picture of a Marine Corps general smiling, I don't think I've seen a single one.

If any of our audience has seen a picture of a Marine Corps general in uniform smiling, please send it to me because I have never seen that. seen one of those pictures.

Brian Comerford 2:12


Nick Lozano 2:14

Totally added to our Instagram, if you can find it. I think I've seen a picture of one smirking, but that does not count as a smile.

Brian Comerford 2:20

I love it. Well, Tom's got just such a vast background. As a photographer, we certainly talked with him at length about some of the areas where he is taken his technical process, and really worked magic with his capabilities, as a photographer, but he's very well known as the man behind the lens for images that have been popularized in the mainstream with just one celebrity figure after another and you know, across just about as many different publication media. So, it's, it's a real treat to have Tom come on board and spend some time with them. We should also mention that this was an interview that was done live. So, it's got some additional different audio artifacts in the mix, from some of our other broadcasts,

Nick Lozano 3:19

I definitely think everybody should hang on and listen that the contents amazing. And the conversation and the quotes that Tom kind of has, I'm not going to give them away. The quotes that Tom has he brings up are just really great. So, you know, sit back, relax, and enjoy our interview with Tom O'Neill.

Tom O’Neal 3:42

And I have a son is a techie, super techie, I can't even talk right there. I try to stay as savvy as I can about what's going on, I've been breached at all. We're number my friends, they just really don't care about that I, I can't keep up with it. And then I just, I don't know, stand I've had some people years ago that said, I don't even know how to turn a computer on. That was scary. To be around when technology is at a point like it is now I'm still just moving in these incredible rates. Why not embrace that take advantage, I guess it's fascinating. Just like, Molly and I just got another car now we didn't have the money to buy it.

We got a Lexis

brother sells them. So, we get we know when a good one is coming in. And so, we still get a pretty decent price.

The point I tried to make to her was she was happy with the one she had six, seven years old. I said why don't we take advantage that the incredible technology within the automotive world right now. You know, that's really hit an amazing point and stuff that's been going on for the last two or three years is really breakthrough. We can get a car three years old, and we will be more, more advanced in a technological way driving than we've ever been. And we are in the cars loaded with stuff, mostly for safety features. But you know, I mean, I everything has something going on within the world of technology that is really advanced, and why not go for it makes your life more fun.

Nick Lozano  5:15

Yeah, now Exactly. That's what I like. Mine and, Brian's thought behind this is that, you know, we see that in the technology space that a lot of these people in our back office workers and initially when they start, and they kind of don't have the tactful skills of being personable, being able to talk with other people being able to lead other individuals. So the kind of idea behind this podcast is, you know, talking to interesting people about different topics, probably how they learn how they manage relationships, I mean, I know you're a photographer, so you instantly as soon as you have a subject in front, you've got to build a rapport with them to get them comfortable to get them to kind of open up so that they're not familiar that in front of Absolutely. picture

Tom O’Neal 6:02

again, that's the key to a good portrait session, is you have to build that sphere trust, immediately. And it's hard because sometimes I'm in a situation people, you know, people here, they know who I am. So, I have an advantage. That's Tom, he's a nice guy, you'll have fun, he's very easy with us a good guy.

But sometimes I walk into a situation like photographing a CEO or somebody way up and upper management. And, you know, the first thing that is asked me is, how long is this going to take? I don't want to say, you know, well,

Nick Lozano 6:37

30 minutes longer than you have.

Tom O’Neal 6:40

Because you're being such a jerk, right now, it's gonna take a while extra time to get you to settle down and open up so that we can actually get a photo that you're going to be happy with. And I can't say that. So, I kind of tell them in a way what he wants to hear. See? Well, it'll be quick. Yeah, but, but you have to work with me, you know, and you have to believe in me, and you have to trust me. And I try to establish right away that,

that I'm more concerned about getting a really good picture of that person, rather than me getting a good picture for me. And as soon as you convince somebody, that you care about them, in some ways more than you care about what you're doing. That is a very, very critical moment in sales, no matter anything. Anytime you have any interaction with somebody, the way you build that trust is that you got to show them that you care about them. There's this great line. We said a long time ago, and it kind of just disappeared. Now. It's kind of starting to resonate again. Teddy Roosevelt said it in the early 1900s but "nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care".

Nick Lozano 7:55

It's very good quote.

Tom O’Neal 7:56

It's a great quote. I, I said to myself, lot remind myself, you know, there's a saying, Markham McKnight. You know, he told me when I talked to his group, he said, you know, my guys had this thing called show up and throw up and

says, I got again, and I want you to tell them like, what is it like to be there within a within a relationship? When you meet somebody for the first time and you've got it? You've got a win them over? What do you do? You know what you don't start talking about yourself right away. And, and a lot of guys do Hey, this is what I got. You know, they realize it 15 minutes for this guy. By the way, we got a lot of new products. Look at this. What do you think of that? Yeah. And yeah, and oh, by the way, in the pictures of the kids, I got a brand-new granddaughter blah, blah, blah. As opposed to is that your granddaughter? Wow. She's beautiful. What's her name? Our names? Betty Lou. I love video. That's great. But you know, you know what I mean? I'm just spontaneous.

Brian Comerford 8:56

No, no, you're talking about the power of engagement versus just the cursory we've got to have, you know, the obligatory chit chat? Yeah. And then because that's what's socially accepted. You're talking about actually getting into committing yourself.

Tom O’Neal 9:11

Yeah, committing yourself and winning that person over. I mean, I'm not saying anything that is profound. And, and something that I discovered this new way of communicating with people. And this is, this is it, this has been going on for ever since people have been able to talk to each other. You know, there was one guy that originally figured, you know, why don't I asked him about him? You know, we're learning this thing called language. Yeah, me wants to know how you are?

Me good. Okay. We've established. I mean, when you think about it, you know, I've been communicating for a long time. But, but somehow, when I was doing all the rock and roll and all the album covers,

maybe it was in the DNA, my dad was in sales, but I developed a way of approaching different artists with this thing that I've been talking about is okay. It's about them. There were guys that would say, hey, what am I going to do your album cover? Don't forget to call me. You know, I want to do your album, hey man. I want to do your album cover. Yeah. You're awesome, right? whereas my approach was like, if you find yourself in need of somebody that can help you. And if I could help you make your album cover something that will make you feel better about yourself and your band, and the way that album cover looks, and possibly increase incentive sales and make you more money. Maybe I can help you. I always, and I never said can I always left it in their court. If I can help you sometime. You can give me a call. It's up to you your call. I'll be there for you, if you call me, you know, because I believe in you. And I believe in your music. And, you know, I'm paraphrasing. I didn't say maybe those exact words. But I said it heartfelt. And I got a lot of work, though. Because it was real. Yeah. And I had some great relationships with people, you know, so in many ways, sure. It was an opportunity for me to do something big. But at the same time, I wanted to do something for them.

Brian Comerford 11:20

I think that'll be a good place for us to just have backup and do a little bit of a

Nick Lozano 11:25


Brian Comerford 11:25

So, on himself, because we've been wanting to capture our guests.

Nick Lozano 11:30

So, Tom, if he just in a nutshell, I mean, I know. You're you've done lots of things. But for people who don't know who Tom O'Neal is, Can, Can you just give us who Tom O'Neal is in a nutshell?

Tom O’Neal 11:43


I, I gave a talk last August, and it said probably another thing I should say do a keynote talk on my rock and roll career was late 60s, early 70s. And it's been quite popular. But I get to introduce now is Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal. And people are a little bit confused. Because a lot of people know me. You guys may know me as Tom O’Neal. But

Nick Lozano  12:10

I do know the Gundelfinger though.

Tom O’Neal 12:12

You didn't know that.

Nick Lozano 12:13

No, I do.

Tom O’Neal 12:14

Yeah, you did. Yeah. You know that now.

Yeah. But there are a number of people that go What's the Gundelfinger. And so, I sometimes have to say and I detect. So, when I spoke to this group

there at the Lawrence Livermore lab, I had a huge auditorium with you know, great auditoriums. I mean, it was packed with rocket scientists and physicists and on just inside totally improvidence that will push Well, let me tell you that. If you Google Tom O’Neal, you'll get this guy with all these photographs. And then if you google Tom, Tom Gundelfinger, you'll get this other guy with a whole different set of photographs and a whole different life. So, I looked at my See, basically, you're looking at somebody with a split personality, and I really don't know who I am till now. In fact, let's go to 1967. That means I'm Tom Gundelfinger. You know, Summer of Love Monterey Pop. And this was all improv and I segue I got a laugh out of it. nice segue right into it. And I did a quick little blurb as to what the name I was born with. Because all the album cover credits are under Tom Gundelfinger. So

when I started to do this talking and you know enough time had gone by after I'd gotten married and changed my name. So, when I married, I married Molly O'Neal and she had a prettier name so

Nick Lozano 13:39

much easier to spell right.

Tom O’Neal 13:43

Gundelfinger O'Neal, Molly O’Neal Tom Gundelfinger. I always said my name sounded like a cardboard box falling down a flight of stairs, you know.

So, I didn't want to bring kids into the world going through what I went through. So, I became Tom O'Neal, and we Dougan, O'Neal and Casey O'Neal.

The cat is even named Danny O'Neill.

So, it's if he was Danny O'Neill Gundelfinger his initials would be dog and that's not good for a cat.

Danny O'Neill. But you know so I finally figured out how to use this duel name thing. And since the rock and roll thing it's gotten really popular over the last several years, I just joined the names again. But now I have another career

you know we guys know about the fact that the listening audience I should say I, I appeared in a sprint commercial feels like I have to talk to them like

looking at the mic rather than these two good looking guys

Nick Lozano 14:52

so that's debatable

Tom O’Neal 14:55

so I yeah, because I was in this sprint commercial I that aired all over the place there was a lot of popularity over it and a lot of notoriety whatever you want to call it, but out of it I got an agent and I'm going to do more work and they they've signed me but I had to come up with another name because there's the photographer dude and then there's the rock and roll dude and now the actor so I'm Tom G O’Neal. So

Thomas Gundelfinger the rock and roll guy and

Nick Lozano 15:27

There is probably already a tom O'Neill and the sag right so

Tom O’Neal 15:30


Nick Lozano 15:31


Tom O’Neal 15:31

I researched it. I did not well there's Ryan O'Neal and Tatum O'Neal. And, but oddly enough, that name has not been given to too many actors. So, there was a guy named Tom Neil back in the 40s. But the way I spell my name e-a-l

didn't know there's, there's not a lot of confusion. So, Ryan O'Neal would be the biggest

Shaquille O'Neal somebody like that distant cousin, but I can't

Nick Lozano 16:06

You're just a little bit shorter. Right.

Tom O’Neal 16:08

So, so I just took and I've used come to me all over that. So, I'm just I was trying to think and the Oscar goes to Tom G O'Neal and I thought Yeah, good. There's a little bit of a pause between the two different you know this the show, right? And yeah, I said it also goes to Tom O'Neill and I like and the Oscar goes to Tom G O'Neal and I see myself jumping out of my

chair. You know, going crazy kissing my wife and running up on the stage and falling on the stage and shipping it tooth

Brian Comerford 16:39

the good news is IMDb, you know, allows for several aliases in there. So, you can really put as many names as you want. Once you know you've got here. The sprint commercial is just one of many appearances that you've been able to do is Tom G O’Neal

Tom O’Neal 16:55

well, anyway, that so I hope people have that problem of, you know, finding a third career and coming up with another name to call themselves, you know, so on my passport, it says Tom, actually Tom Gundelfinger O'Neal, your own Neil. And then on the back, it says aka Tom, Christopher Gundelfinger, my original name. So, but then I found out you know, there's movie actors that change their name, and then they're known as something else.

Brian Comerford 17:23

John Dusseldorf becomes John Denver,

Tom O’Neal 17:25

John Denver,

perfect example. And I and probably on his passport, he was able to change it to john Denver. The IRS knows me as actually is Tom G. O'Neill,

Brian Comerford 17:37

they probably know you actually as a nine-digit number.

Tom O’Neal 17:43


Brian Comerford 17:44

back to your earlier.

We're reaching the tape right now, back to your earlier comments about establishing you know, genuine engagement, that's probably not something that the IRS is terrible interested in.

Tom O’Neal 17:57


Brian Comerford 17:58

I'd like to ask you some questions about, you know, where you started with technology as a photographer, where it's come to, and how that has enabled you to evolve yourself from, you know, both as a photographer and artist, as well as someone who is interacting with other teams of people who might have to work with you on creative projects.

Tom O’Neal 18:25

That's a, that's a great question. I actually, you know, have regrets about not being technical enough. When I started. And there was, in the early days of film, there was a big debate, you know, how far do you go with the technology?

learning how to shoot film was technology, you know, even though it had been around for a long time, you know, exposures, exposure compensation. Ansel Adams had this zone system, which I studied for a while and all that. But originally, when I got into it, right out of college, I was coming out of

a design major and painting major, that it's I had pretty good design fundamentals down. But photography kind of came almost by accident. You know, I design teacher loaned, his camera. And I went out and started taking pictures. And I thought, wow, this is easy. Click, that's opinion. Yeah, that's another pain, no, turpentine, no smell of any of this stuff. I'm not making stretchers, boom, boom, what like this, you know, so. And that was I bought a Nikon F. So, there were no automatic features to it or anything like that. But I wish somebody quite honestly had said, Look, I could learn the basic principles of exposure compensation. And I didn't get that for a long time. And I made a lot of mistakes. And here I photographed right after I got out of school. So, this is relatively one of the first things that I've done in photography was the Monterey Pop Festival. During the day, when the light values were very nominal, very even, particularly in Monterey, with the fog and all that

I got pretty good shots. And basically, you know, there was a little, there was a little light meter within this camera I had, and I just got it right about the middle, I thought, okay, that's where it should be not understanding anything about, you know, minus in a couple of stops, you know, are increasing, I didn't know anything about exposure compensation. And I kind of didn't want to learn and get bogged down by the technical aspect, because there was a belief that if you kind of hit this tipping point, and kind of went over the edge of being much more aware, and obsessed with the technical aspect, and you put all this thought process into when let's see, I can shoot it, five, six, and open up two stops, and then maybe I can minus the development and all this stuff. It misses that spontaneity, number one of getting the shot, you know why you've been thinking about it, you've already missed the shot. And, and just that, that thing that happens to you when you get in the zone, and you're starting to get into the creative process, you know, sitting there making all kinds of calculations in your head, which were really new for me at the time, it was hard. I just wanted to go, does this feel good? Or does it not feel good in school, you learn? Does it work? Or does it not work? And as long as you start applying certain fundamentals that you've learned, you can get some pretty good shots, you know, that you can kind of work the design into the shot. And I wanted to put my energy there. So, to answer your question, in a way I, I did not embrace the technology. And that was a mistake. So, when digital came along, by then I had figured out you got to know something about this. But again, it's a, it's a balance beam you're walking on, and you've got to be able to know about the tech, certainly what the camera can do. And be take that technology and use it in an artistic way. still keep your mind open, you know, and allow the, the artistic process, the creative process to come in, where you just let go. And it all starts happening. You know, where you connect with this thing. It's called, you know, getting in the zone. And every, every great artist, every artist has never been discovered. But certainly all the great. Random, I mean, the Vinci and Michelangelo and Botticelli and all these guys from the Renaissance. Now, I was just looking at him at the museum yesterday with my son.

Anytime you guys want to talk about anytime you totally give yourself all of yourself into this moment where nothing else in the world matters. And you and this thing, totally connected by this beam of energy. That is an exciting experience. And that's when the magic happens. Every cell in your body is sitting there going yeah, he's in it, man. He's cranking. Yeah, this is cool. And it takes a while to get there. But if, if you're if you're thinking about, should I shoot at five, six, or let's see, or should I be used by x film or plus x film? Maybe even

better? The picture is gone. Right? You're going you're out of that space?

Brian Comerford 23:19

Would you say that it's fair to say that by knowing all those foundational rules, that it gave you the versatility to be able to break them and have that spontaneity but also know that you have that foundation where you're

Tom O’Neal 23:32

within the Yeah, the foundation of a Yeah, and, and I would break them, you know, but then I've always still gone back to some of the basics, you can't beat the law of third, it's just the way we have this predisposition disposition of the way our

neurotransmitters or whatever's going on in the brain. And the way we see that there's this proportion of, of space spatial relationships that have a rightness, it's the golden rule, it's a golden mean, you know, the Greeks discovered it, because it's been around for a long time. And those proportions are all based on, on Math and Math is finite. And so, you know, you start pushing around, there's going to be a tilt. And then I find that, you know, if I start to,

when I start to mess with it, those are the, those are just the basics. Now, as far as color, contrast,

texture, I push it to all extremes. I don't feel like there's anything that's holding me back there that I have to have certain guidelines. But if I have something where I'm, I'm just going, you know, let's say like, you know, a pattern, a particular pattern that you see. And actually, I'm sure we all done this, sometimes you take it a shot your phone or your camera goes off, and it hits the ground and your foot and you're moving and slips this blurry.

Sometimes an accident like that, where everything falls into the right spots, you know, shots are beautiful. Yeah, yeah, you know, 95% of my talks. But every once in a while I keep wanting to go, wow. That's, that's gorgeous.

Brian Comerford  25:16

How much of your career has been spent having to work with others and collaboration as an artistic team to produce some of this work? And where have you found yourself in sort of that leadership role to help guide them with some of these principles that you're sharing with us?

Tom O’Neal  25:35

Where does Brian get questions like this?

I've been interviewed a lot, dude. You're just throwing them out there. It's like,

Nick Lozano  25:42



Tom O’Neal  25:46


probably you

Nick Lozano  25:54


Tom O’Neal  25:54

it's great question. There are times where I, yeah, I can on your projects that way. in fact, I had, I had a partner when I was in LA, and for their three, four years where we did album covers together. And I gave I gave him more of the design. It was really my group. And he came to me and I brought him in. So I could charge the pecking order, I was still that the guy and I most of the album covers for people that I had kind of met, and they were more or less my connections.

I did feel more comfortable, where I could put more time into the photography, and he could put more time into the design. And I liked this because he had a clean sense of design. So, if you're compatible with somebody, this is obvious stuff, you know, if you're compatible with somebody like the way they work, there you like the design style? Yeah, it's great. There is one designer in Carmel,

where, where I live and work on different projects, and this guy is so good, that whenever I get involved with him, I just know my work is going to look great. The output is always he this guy is so brilliant, and has such a beautifully connected way of, of having that aha moment always pop up. When he's finished. You know, it's really a joy. There have been times where

and this happens a lot, you work with somebody, you turn in the your photos, and you see it come out in a magazine or even in print or something. And I don't even want to show it to anybody. It's that bad. So, there are times in a collaboration where if I don't have enough control, and I really can't see anything,

it can be disastrous, and sad, because you try real hard with this picture. Now the other thing too, I have to point out is that when you're let's say when you're working with somebody on the design, you know, on the design side, but they're not there, you're not getting any feedback, they simply say go out and get this photo, and they give you a few parameters. And but not enough to where you, you know, you really have to sit there and try and get in their head. You can't call them you can't send them an email. And I got to kind of second guess and will, will they like this or like that? Or can I if I shoot this and there'll be a kind of a blank area, they could drop some typing over there. So now I find myself designing this thing, before they've even had a chance to look at the photo. That's hard. Because sometimes I'm totally off. And sometimes they'll shoot something and I'll go Oh, yeah, I killed that a crush. It is great. And they see it and they go; this isn't what I wanted at all.

Brian Comerford 28:36

So where does the where does the

interaction come in? Where there are leadership components where you may be acting in a directing capacity? Or is it? Is it more nature of the request of the work that sort of,

Tom O’Neal 28:51

again? Yeah, it works both ways. But the one thing that happened, when I was when I did the album covers, I got to the point because I didn't have a design background, I got to the point where I was able to convince him to if they said, Look, I can design this for you. That was really, really something that helped. And one group in particular that I did nine albums for where they totally trusted me that was Steppenwolf. And I got in to the design aspect. And they gave me this beautiful blank slate, you know, huge canvas. And they said, this is what we wanted to say. But you know, just let's see what you can do. One thing that one technique that a number of photographers that I work with, they would shoot, just go out and shoot a bunch of pictures. They come back, they go to the studio, and I've done this a few times to bring your slide projector you bring a blank album cover. And everybody smokes. Tremendous amount of marijuana. And so, I had to kind of be careful that didn't inhale yet because I wanted to know.

Yeah, I actually I really enjoyed it. I did inhale, but not very much just because I wanted to be able to use the slide, which actually not make a fool of myself. Because that happened one time and I got a slide stuck. And I couldn't get it out. And it was just an awful

Slide got ruined. It was awful

Brian Comerford 30:13

Smoking the slides, probably Yeah.

Tom O’Neal 30:16

I tried to roll that little sucker.

Wow, that's awful. Yeah, emulation and everything. And

yeah, but the. But anyway, we'd look at him and not just sit there and I could move to the album cover back and forth as to see how the cropping would be. So that was one technique, the other was where you had a specific idea. And they were going to have to be a number of photographs used within the shot like a collage. And I did several like that, or, you know, as much more involved. And I more or less, you know, kind of took their lead. And you said, Okay, let's see. And then I just I said, I'm going to do this for you, it really helps when somebody is in control. And the more you can get as much control as possible that it's like with any project, you know it within the archer with it. You know, even within a management team, something like that, the more control you can have, it's, it's always going to be all these things that are so standard, to standard beliefs that so many people have, that certainly works with me, and it worked with me in the past. But when I was able to actually, you know, if I'm photographing you and I see some blank spaces in the back behind you, and I see a textured bush or tree over here, I know that I'm going to put the I'm going to line you up so that the area behind you is much more devoid of texture. So, I can drop some titles over this shoulder and that shoulder. And that really helps knowing that I'm going to make that choice, right? That was a huge asset, the fringe benefit from that as I made twice the money, but really what I liked was having the control, it was another way of going through that whole creative process. You take the shot, now you get to put it into a format or an environment

to go with that format. And then lay it out. And it has to be perfect doing the mechanicals and get it set for the printer. And you have to have a knowledge about trading. And how certain This is where the technology you know, the more I learned, the more it really helped and I was able to use it in an artistic way. Perfect example, in in offset printing, like everything was in those days, it's in order to get a real rich black background. And sometimes I would frame a photograph with black, I'd put a 30% layer of blue ink underneath that. And that in red would change it you couldn't do with any other color, but 30 30%

blue, the printer would lay down first. And then on top of that, the black that black would just be so rich and deep. And that was a trick I learned from a guy, you know, who told me, you know, taught me a lot about printing. So, I would be able to I call the colors that I could control. So much of the look of the album, by ways a lot of people would didn't even understand because I understood the printing process. And I'd be down there in the press talking to the guys loading up the phones and tell him what I wanted and everything. So, I got I got into it in that respect. There's a lot a long way from going to click

film in the camera go Can you complete that? You know?

Brian Comerford 33:34

What's, what's one of the universal truths? You think anyone who works with technology needs to know when they're leading other teams that have to collaborate effectively. Do you have an insight? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Tom O’Neal 33:51

Well, I don't care what you're doing. If, if you don't create from the heart, you know, you're going to start to see stumble. But when people see that the passion is there. They get behind that. You know, I have one son who's a filmmaker, he's a director of basically mostly TV commercials. And he'll put a lot of people on the set. And he does some very big productions. But they get right away from the beginning. And the first meeting, that they have these pre con meetings where they could go on for two or three weeks where he meets with our directors and set designers all this stuff. And when you see that it comes down, I tell them I said, you know, cortisone, cortisone as long as you create from the heart, your hands will follow. Now I have another son, who's

he's a software engineer. And he is all heart. He is passionate. And all he does is put 0s and 1s together. And he writes mostly now in JavaScript, but he writes in other languages as well, but he writes with passion. And I would say that's a key thing. It's it might sound cornball, be patient that that be heart but I love what you do. But are you a chef? No. Software Engineer. But what do you mean? No, no, but it's

but it's, it's, it's no different. I think that's the beauty. You know, I mean, my son explained me, explained to me last night at dinner, about how he works, you know, I he's a web developer right now. And they build these very high-end websites


universities and, and he just did one for Jeff Bezos for the Blue Origin.

pretty sophisticated website. He worked with a few other engineers and all that. But so how do you even begin this is this was the atomic design. atomic design, what the heck is that? atomic design is, is a way in which they start the you know, it's a very organic process, and they, they start the design, maybe they break everything down into the molecular level. And it's like quantum physics or anything, but, but it is structured in a way that it is basically, like, atomic and subatomic infrastructure. And they, you know, he has, you know, everything on a molecular design, they get into the atoms and, and he was showing me how their each stage where they're going, it was just blown away the structural thing of how they start from here, and they keep making these steps. where, you know, the way I was like, if you take a napkin and you get a ballpoint pen, you start drawing on it, and you get another napkin and you draw on that. And then you put the two together, and you say, okay, that's what we're going to do. And

it's kind of cool.

Nick Lozano 36:56

Yeah, I know exactly what.

Tom O’Neal 36:57

Yeah, I just found out about atomic design. I mean, if you've heard of the where you where you started on the molecular level and everything?

Nick Lozano 37:04

I've never heard of that.

Yeah. It's, it's some it's something fairly new. So yeah, yeah. It's pretty new. Yeah, yeah. Couple past couple years.

Tom O’Neal 37:13

But I mean, that's, that's fantastic. But even that is done. With heart that's done with passion. And passion is nothing more than yours, you believe in this so much. And you, you are so connected with it. That is part of you. That's the thing about the zone. You know, and it can be it can be selling products, you know, in the insurance world, or in the wholesale world or reinsurance. I mean, how do you get excited about reinsurance

Brian Comerford 37:45

will try to figure it out.

Tom O’Neal 37:48

But you know what I mean? Even when I started working with you guys, 14 years ago, 15 years ago, and I started to tell people, you know, I've had such a great group of people. I've more friends, great corporate group. What is it? It's The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers. look to me like, What the hell are you talking?

About today? Right? You mean insurance people? Oh, that's real excited. whoopee. I'd love to wake up in the morning. See, I'm going to work with a bunch of insurance guys. Get my gray suit up and go watch the paint dry. Yeah, you know, because that was the perception. Yeah, it's just the opposite. This is one of the best, this group of people I've ever met.

Nick Lozano 38:29

So, I am going to ask you a question a little bit easier probably then, than what Brian's been thrown at you? Do you have any habits that you develop that you think kind of help you get through your days or that have been beneficial with you working at all?

Tom O’Neal 38:48

Well, the

I have to say that the therapy I get is when I can let go and start looking for art. This sounds like this, this guy ever gives it up, you know, but

there's something about the creative process, whether I'm repairing something in the house, and I got to go in and figure out how to make it, I've got some pretty cool tools. I don't have a shop; I wish I did. But I got enough tools around, you know, in the garage and stuff like that. And with a good vice and, you know, a grinder and impact driver and all these cool things, you can get it home depot and everything, you can start making pretty cool stuff. So, there's a creative aspect there. I'd rather fix something that needs repair on the house, then call somebody. Because, number one, I like the satisfaction that I was able to figure this out. But it's a process. And you know, they've said saying, is it the destination? Or is it the journey? I actually really like the journey. Yeah, you know, and, and so I create my own journey sometime. And when I went to that Museum, the several museums, museums yesterday with Casey, I, I was shooting art, within art. I mean, some of the things were so visually stunning that I started pulling other very visual stunning images within the people didn't even notice, you know, so I mean, here's this giant, let's say a giant painting. And then I started photographing just a section of that. And then finding another world of art, and then walking around within the architecture and looking up at the ceilings and look at the superstructure. And then just by, by holding the camera a certain way, you get part of different plans, and then maybe some molding and then different tone changes within the walls. And then by the way, it's cropped all of a sudden, wow, that's, that's pretty cool. Well, you know, I did this with my friends, we call it a pulling art out of nothing. And I do that for my own, if I can be have the time to do that I will feel better within my whole body.

And now I don't get a chance to do that much, I have to go to that place. Unfortunately, you know, when you're so bogged down with stuff that have happens during the day, you know, that you have to do, you can't see that stuff. It's I can drive by something or look at something and go I don't know what I saw the other day in that. But I don't see anything now. Because I got email stands for just like we all get caught up with the stuff that we got to do. And it bogs us down. So, when you can free yourself of that, and go into something where now you've got these little journeys that you can go through and go through that excitement of, of, of finishing the journey or taking on the journey and reaching your destination. That's, that's healthy. And I like to do that. And I also never stop walking or moving. So, I get plenty of exercise.

Nick Lozano 41:53


And then one other question I have is there a book that you give to people or book that's had a big impact on you? Or, or piece of media or anything like that?

Tom O’Neal 42:06

I hear a lot of interviews on NPR. And, and there's some fascinating people that

I sometimes I find that they're they talk better than they write.

Because they're going by the book, I got this isn't exactly what it sounded like when he was talking to Terry Gross. You know,

but I

there's some guys that


Brian Degrassi who's the, the guy who the one who knows everything about.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

I like the way

Nick Lozano 42:46

Brian's got to that star.

Brian Comerford 42:47

Star Talk.

Tom O’Neal 42:50

I find the show a little bit, you know, a little bit cheesy at times, you know, and a little bit too scripted. But I like the way he describes things in, you know, very basic terms. And I and I do learn from him. But I read several books. One is on how to literally about speaking and connecting with people. There's some great books on I can't really quote anybody right now. But it's, it's something I copy a lot of phrases. But really what helps me more than anything is that there's a lot to NPR and I listen, some very bright people talk. And I love the use of really well compose metaphors. And I write metaphors down all the way. And I hear them many more times than when I see them in print. But there was one I just heard the other day and oh my god, it floored me.

And Terry Gross. I'm a big fan of hers. And they all are. But she said something. Oh, years ago in the interview, she says, Well, it seems like that has some nefarious underpinnings. I went, various underpinnings.


Nick Lozano 44:06

That's a statement.

Tom O’Neal 44:09

Center opinion. But, But

I've actually written about this, you know, I gave her my rock and roll book. And I put that in there. I said, You're the only person in the world I think is ever put those two words together and sure is cool. You know, but I've tried to use that it's a very difficult, it's difficult to find some metaphors

to drop into in a very cool way, in a sentence where you really want to explain what you're feeling. And at the same time somebody goes wow.

I don't do it for that reason. But it's fun. It's flowery, and it's fun. And so, I, I get a lot out of that. But I'd say there was a book that I like to recommend to people only because there's still a tremendous interest within the music. And it's about Jimi Hendrix. There's a book called room full of mirrors, and it's about his life. It's a biography of his life. And it is so well done. And if you want to look into the world of somebody into the life of somebody that is so immensely popular, and famous. And he's been, he's been dead for 47 years, something like that. Unfortunately, you only had three years of success, he had a


miserable, awful upbringing. And but this is the book is very well written. And it really channels it, you know, it tracks his life right up to the end, and from the very beginning. And I like to tell people that are interested in music. read this book, it'll really make you realize, wow, you know, look what some people do to really, you know, what they got to do to go through and make it

but I, I hear books like sapiens, I've been wanting to read that. That's a great read. I my son gave me the fabric of the universe by Brian green. And I got three pages into that and I got a headache.

I wanted to understand it. So

I'm on the radio, you know, and but I yeah, I there's some books I love.

There's some great books, but

I'm sounding like somebody that says over the White House says a lot of words, it says nothing. I'm sorry, everything.

Brian Comerford 46:32

I don't know what these guys think a nefarious underpinning much broader usage.

Tom O’Neal 46:40

I saw something in the New Yorker the other day at a friend's house, I probably didn't write it down here was something like it was a drawing and there was a woman and her and she had her child and there was another person who had a dog and the dog was looking at the kid and, and the woman said does your dog bite. And, and the caption was,

that's not in his repository of advances.

I just I said, Okay, I gotta find a way.

I'm going to use that, you know, do you? Have you ever said it was done my repository of comments.

I'm just, I'm fascinated by words, and how people put them together. But you know, the idea that the things that the one thing, that phrase I said a little while ago, that is resonated with me, in such a big way. Nobody cares how much you know, until you know how much they care, I would say that's one of the number one phrases that just has really meant a lot to me. And I live by that. When you send it out to the universe, it will answer. My sister taught me that one. And, and the one I've taught both kids and artists in Mexico told me this years ago, when you create from the heart, your hands will follow. And I live by those. So, it's not really necessarily getting them from books. It's, it's just getting them either on the radio or somebody tells me

the one the one I got from, I learned about the teddy Roosevelt quote, nobody, nobody cares how much you know, I got that from two brothers, that their father had just passed away. And he was this incredible guy. And he was his amazing salesman. He was a super salesman. And that's what he taught his sons. That was his mantra. He said, the way you connect with people, and I heard that, and it just that I just said, say it again. Now again, then I had to write it down. And I had to look at it five times, so I could get it right. I just remember there is one from a book. It was in school, a judgment. George Bernard Shaw, it was a short play called Mrs. Warren's perfect profession. And there's a line in there. I think I was 19 years old, when I read this, this had a profound effect. I don't tell anybody to read this short play. But I tell them about the line. And there's a line in there that says you create your own circumstances. And that came very early on. I would say that's one of the most powerful

printed lines that I've ever read that had a very immediate and a very, very long, profound effect on me. I still live by that you create your own, which is the same thing is when you send it out the universe that will answer. I mean, I've I'm in this situation now where I've got a strong chance to be in some commercials.

Listen, commercials who wants to be in a commercial? Well, national commercials and the products again? It's the journey. Yeah, the destination? Yeah, they're all over the place. Sure, fine. It was the process. That's where the fun is. I want to do this. And I've been on I put it off TV sets, and movie sets. When I was in LA for years, I was always comfortable. Now I'm on the other side of the camera. My son taught me that how to find that being a director taught me how to find that comfort zone. I really like it. I started thinking about what happened to me in September, I started thinking about that two years ago, I started creating the circumstance for the started sending it out.

And it happened. And it happened much bigger than I thought it was. So, I mean, this little five second moment that I'm on that I was on TV all over the country for about three or four weeks. It's had a profound effect on my life. It's crazy. It's crazy, crazy. And I've had this career as a photographer, you know, where I actually you know, I mean, so people know me and I've got it out there and it's, it's floating around. You can see my stuff. But now I mean, when people see me there in Carmel or Pebble Beach or something like that, they go Hey,

dancing, man. How you doing? There's a rock star.

Yeah, dancing, man. Hey, how you doing? Hey, don't forget the little people remember us?

Somebody's sitting there yelling me from the front door there. 500. I mean, are there $5 million mansion? Don't forget the little people. Yeah, there's I go back to my trailer.

Forget the little rich. Millionaire people that I know.

ya know, it's just, they they're crazy about it. You know? So, I mean, people come up all the time. Now that I mean, their clients and some are friends. And they go and they make a big deal about it. I want to say five seconds; I was on TV. This happens all the time. But the day that guy that they saw they knew and I tried to think about that. What is it when you know somebody that does something on a, you know, on a national level, or gets a lot of exposure?

Nick Lozano 52:05


Tom O’Neal 52:08

It's just funny, you know, I mean, I that stuff fascinates me.

Nick Lozano 52:12

It's pretty

crazy when I saw it, because I didn't happen to catch it when it aired. But so, I went back through YouTube to find it. And I'm like, wait, there's Tom. He's right there. It's like, Well, yeah, like five seconds here. Yeah, dancing around. And it's like,

Tom O’Neal 52:25

such a shock. Nobody tells my

Nick Lozano 52:26

wife she's like,

Tom O’Neal 52:29

yeah. And people they started calling me and I got emails and text is like, dude, I just see you in a sprint commercial?

I've been at a few more but they weren't as they were, they weren't as prevalent.

You just didn't see him that much. And I get Texas here and there. Maybe just a handful. This was crazy. So, and I've been interviewed a number of times on the radio and NPR and all that. And I'm the same thing. Hey, I heard you on the radio. I was in people here in DC heard me. You know, when I and I did the I did the show in LA

through studios in Culver City. And that was fun. But this was

it was fun.

Nick Lozano 53:10

It was the journey. Right?

Tom O’Neal 53:11

It was the journey.

Brian Comerford 53:14

Yeah, can we finish with I just want to ask favorite rock and roll album cover that you ever got to do photography for?

Tom O’Neal 53:25

the most famous, you know, the one that certainly its way up there in terms of the, the accolades is that Déjà vu album cover for Crosby, Stills and Nash, and I am proud of that. But I'd say quite honestly, my favorite is a album called Steppenwolf seven. And it's, it was where I was really able to do my thing as an artist. They gave me such a free rein. And I had some elements they wanted that one of the guys in the band was very creative he wanted me to work with. But I created this thing. And that has also been singled out in different album cover books and things like that. It's the one with the two big skulls. That no actually yeah, and there's a sunset behind it. And the band's kind of in the lower third of the album, and they're looking very macho, and I shot it infrared film, so the color balance is way off. And then and these radiant lines going out from the center of the album, it says Steppenwolf seven. And, and then you

look at the backside. And it's a shot that I took of john came to me to see in a few days in Montreal, and he was I'd gotten down his swimming pool in Laurel Canyon. And then he stood on the edge and I shot up with a 17-millimeter-wide angle lens. So, he looks like a like he's the Eiffel Tower, it looks like this huge goes on forever. And underneath that in a very light texture is the yellow play. Though I just did the front cover that only the yellow. And that's in this image is sitting on that. And then there's a group shot that I took of the band in front of the Royal Albert Hall posing for a whole group of paparazzi photograph. So, I've shot from the side. And I put, I put that shot very small, at the foot of this big supersize john K, the leader of the band. And then I took another shot of one of the guys in the band in this that was in this group shot. But I took a shot of him leaning up against a huge stone at, at Stonehenge when they played in Bath England at a big festival there. And we stopped at Stonehenge and so he was taking a picture of his wife. So, I took a picture. So, I know I just went around looking at to cut him up. But I didn't clip them out like the collage. I did it all photo mechanically. So anyway, he's leaning up against this, this rock, which became the other leg of john K, shooting the band on the opposite leg. And then I took a brick road that I'd gotten in Sofia, Bulgaria and I put that in anyway, I'm trying to say it, I made this just crazy collage, but it all worked. It wasn't filter, anything like that at all was very seamless the way it was just meant to be.

That was a lot of fun. You know, and that that journey was fantastic. And when I look at that, I'm quite proud and it was done all analog today, you can do this in layers. Sure. I did it with film layers I worked in big sheets of, of it's called line film or Kota Lyft film, there's no gray tones or anything like that. It's either solid black, or the film was clear. And the neat thing about it was worth chromatic so you could work on it, you could do things with it underneath the safe light. And when you processed it and you could look at it to see when it was ready. And it was all traded element. But they were like photographs only they was on film, but no, no middle grays. So, it was very graphic. And I would I would make prints off of those and then I paint on them and it was it was a wonderful, wonderful time but you know this way before anything like Photoshop or working with computers

something digital integrated with digital man digits fingers or a number. Yeah, you know, but, but it digital meant you would you had dexterity in your fingers. So, it was just all analog and I'm very proud of that. So yeah, Steppenwolf seven. Check that out. Ladies and gentlemen. Amazon

are you? eBay? $35.

Good, you guys.

Nick Lozano 58:02

Yeah, perfect. The where can people find you, Tom?

Tom O’Neal 58:06

Looking for you? Yeah, the website is my initials t g o And if you go to the website and you see the rock and roll book, you can buy that for $29.95 plus a little bit of money for shipping and we'll send it anywhere. It's called Gundelfinger Memoirs of a rock and roll photographer. Deja vu. From Monterey Pop to Deja vu and beyond. It's cool book. You'll, you'll dig it. Why do I look over there?

Nick Lozano 58:38

is an object over there? Looks like a camera.

Tom O’Neal 58:41

I'm talking to everybody. And I know there's no camera but you look like a camera too.


I loved it. She does. You do a great job. Bravo. Thank you.