Tom Kent is one of Orkney’s most famous photographers. He was born on the island of Eday in 1863 but the family moved to the Parish of Firth on the Orkney Mainland soon after. It was after emigrating to America and becoming a student of renowned Chicago photographer M.J. Steffens that Tom learned the skills that allowed him to set up shop as a photographer on his return to Orkney. More than just a recorder of events he had an eye for composition as well as a seemingly unerring ability to be in the right place at the right time.
He used the most sophisticated equipment available at the time, but that would still mean having to carry around a large heavy wooden camera and a quantity of glass plates, no mean feat in itself.
The quality of Tom Kent’s photographs was recognised outside Orkney and he contributed regularly to professional magazines as well as pictorial publications such as Country Life. Sadly Tom seems to have fallen on hard times in later life and when he died, on 11th August 1936, his passing went almost unnoticed, a sad end for a man who had played such an important part in documenting life in Orkney.