AWARD-WINNING street photographer and globe hopper Tom Nixon captures the stories of the people he meets while trawling through the back alleys, bustling marketplaces and remote villages of the Far East on camera.

“Most days I leave the door with only my camera, and no intended direction,” Tom said. “I just walk, and see what I find. I never know what I’m going to capture, or who I’m going to meet, but no two days are ever the same.”

Tom (23), who is from Hexham, is currently residing in Thailand’s bustling capital Bangkok, which is just one stop on his tour of South East Asia. He previously spent several months exploring Vietnam and Malaysia.

Tom specialises in a style of photography called ‘street photography’, which focuses on capturing candid and unmanipulated shots of unknown people and chance events in public places.

Street photography first intrigued Tom because it allowed him to capture what he describes as “unique and fleeting moments”, which are near impossible to replicate, because they capture random events and natural human reactions in real time.

“You can’t control street photography in the same way you can with landscape, because you’re in a setting which you can’t stage,” he said.

“People, cars and animals will often just wander into the shot unaware, so you have to act fast to get the right angles, because you’ll only have a few minutes to capture the image you need before the scene in front of you changes again.

“Street photography thrives on chance and unpredictably, and it’s that unknown element which keeps me on my toes as a photographer.”

During the five months he’s been travelling, Tom has crossed paths with people from all walks of life – from wealthy businessmen and loving families, to homeless individuals and drug addicts.

“What came as a huge shock to me was the drastic difference in wealth some of these countries have,” he said. “You could be in a street surrounded designer shops and Ferraris lining the pavement, but one street away, you’ll find yourself in a dishevelled back-alley, where the people who live there don’t have access to working sewers.

“I never wanted to shy away from showcasing both sides of society through my work, because my aim is to capture reality.”

“I also hope my photos help to raise awareness of the conditions other people in the world are forced to live in, and make people think about their own privilege.

“I took for granted how lucky I was to live in Britain before I had seen what life was like for others in countries which aren’t so developed.”

Tom recalls one particularly harrowing moment whilst he was walking past a deserted multi-storey car park in a back street of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

At the bottom of the car park’s exit ramp, he spotted a disorientated woman sitting in a wheelchair alone.

“All the rubber was missing out of the rims of her chair,” he said. “And her arms were covered in scars from obvious drug abuse.

“Seeing her at the bottom of the ramp like that felt strangely metaphoric for her hitting rock bottom. It was heart-breaking to witness.”

Another difficult encounter which has remained with Tom occurred on his visit to Chiang Maj, Northern Thailand. Here he met a homeless gentleman begging on the backstreets, who had been shot in the head some years before, leaving him blind in one eye, and with severe damage to one side of his face.

“I sat and spoke with him for a while and gave him some money. The photographs come second to the experiences of meeting people, and hearing their stories. I’ve realised. Many will stay with me forever I think.”

Tom’s travels across the Far East have also provided him with stacks of uplifting memories however, and he’s been moved by how welcome he has been made to feel in the places he’s stopped along his journey.

“In every village or town I visit, the people are so proud to show you around where they call home,” he said. “The children in particular get very excited to see you, and they are fascinated by the camera, so they’ll beg you to show them how it works.”

Out of all the places he’s visited, one of his favourite places to photograph was the famous Hanoi Train Street, a narrow residential street in the capital of Vietnam which is only just wide enough to fit the high-speed train which sours through twice a day.

Every day, residents of the street must partake in the same routine. Café’s bring their tables and chairs in from the tracks, parents scramble to collect their children from playing outside, and drying washing is hurried down from the lines, to save it being swept away with the train.

“For the people living on the Hanoi Train Street, it’s an entirely normal part of their day,” said Tom. “But for tourists like myself, the concept is entirely bizarre, not to mention unnerving.

“What goes from being a bustling city street, suddenly becomes eerily deserted as everybody waits for the train to pass through, after which life can resume to normal.”

Currently, Tom funds his travels through his work as a freelance graphic designer, communicating with his clients via the internet.

His long-term goal, however, is to pursue photography full-time, and he’s already making a name for himself in the UK photography scene, having received multiple national awards.

In 2018 Tom was awarded the titles of On the Road Global Young Photographer of the Year, Great Outdoors Global Young Photographer of the Year, Urban Landscapes, Global Young Photographer of the Year and has started off the new year by being awarded Urban Landscapes Global Young Photographer of the Year. All titles were awarded by the prestigious Digital Camera Magazine.

Last year, two pieces of Tom’s work were exhibited at the Queen’s Hall Theatre in Hexham as part of an art show and sale.

“Having the opportunity to showcase my work in home hometown is one of my proudest achievements and its something I would definitely like to do again,” he said.

Tom has no definite plans for the future, other than to continue to see the world and capture his experiences on camera. He does know however, that he isn’t ready to return to the UK anytime soon.

“It’s an open-ended adventure,” he said. “But I feel like Europe is next on the list.”