O Revealed

Now that the September issue of O Magazine is on the stands, I’m ready to reveal the images created for last month’s O’s Memoir Feast.


The handwritten text you see on the furniture is my grandmother’s. She died suddenly when I was 10. To this day, it continues to be the single-most tragic event in my life. When I was 28, I was given a shoebox filled with a stack of writing tablets that contained my grandma’s secret journals.

As a kid, I saw her as a very happy and jovial person. As an adult, I was introduced to a woman who spent most of her adult life drowning in a never-ending flood of pain and sorrow.

This one was chosen right away, with no additional edits. The symbol of McCracken as a pine tree, reaching for her unborn child really moved me.

I cannot begin to count how many revisions it took to get to this point. This is my favorite one. Her memoir, A Three Dog Life, is heartbreakingly beautiful.

In her essay, Sandra Tsing Loh reveals that she was fired from her job at NPR, but doesn’t offer any details. This photograph illustrates why (and that’s all I’m going to say).

The idea for the waves cut from the book cloth came immediately. The rest of the image grew from there.

In Abigail Thomas’ essay about writing a memoir, she refers to it as a side door into a person. That’s where I got the idea for a screen door. However, as you will see later, the figure leaping through the book was not part of my original idea. I thought the backlit door, by itself, was a very powerful icon in relation to the text. I’ve had people look at this final version and tell me, “This does not look like your work at all.”

It was the art director’s idea to add the figure. I thought it was a bad idea, but rather than bite the hand that feeds me, I bit my tongue instead. This is my least favorite image.


As a bonus, I’ve included 24 jpegs of mockups that didn’t make the cut. A few of these may look familiar—they were “leaked” to Stickers and Donuts on July 28th.


7 Responses to “O Revealed”

  1. […] Thomas Allen put all his pictures from Oprah magazine on his web-page, including some more photos that didn’t make the cut (I spilled the beans on some of these a […]

  2. you rock Tom

  3. I’ve been following your work for a while now this is wonderful stuff, as always. I believe you use a big view camera? It’d be great if you could talk a bit about the photography and the lighting at some point, if that wouldn’t be giving to much away…

    Please keep up the posts here, and best wishes.

  4. Phil of Mpls Says:

    Great stuff, Tom! I really enjoyed seeing it.

  5. Tom, I am once again floored by your new pieces. The dog one made my day. Thanks for posting them, as I was out of the loop on the Oprah gig when it was on newsstands and would feel bad tearing pages out of library copies. Come back to Minneapolis soon; we love you.

  6. Tom, these are exquisite. I love them.

  7. Rhonda Callahan Says:

    Hi Tom-
    I was making a collage and came across this in O-wondering if it was you-not having a clue of all your success…must be 1997 or so the last time I saw you or your work…was so excited to see that indeed it was your work. So…your artwork has become part of mine-I have borrowed you! You are amazing!

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