After graduating from New York’s School of the Visual Arts in 1980 with a BA in photography, he served as Robert Mapplethorpe’s exclusive print maker. Since then Baril, has embraced a variety of photographic and print mediums such as 4x5 Polaroid pinhole or 8x10 collodion wet-plate, to create technically exquisite images of urban architecture, minimalist seascapes and meticulously detailed botanicals and still lifes. In the words of one commentator, Baril's "exquisitely imagined and powerfully rendered" images are "...clearly founded upon the photographic masters of the past. But his tones and techniques demonstrate a contemporary vision, offering an elegant synthesis of artistic tradition and current aesthetics." In other words, the effect achieved in Baril's work is both classic and contemporary.
Tom Baril’s work has been the subject of two monographs, the highly acclaimed sold out self-titled book published by 4AD in 1997, and Botanica published by Arena Editions in 1999. His work has been featured in numerous publications, and is among both public and private collections including: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Center for Creative Photography, the George Eastman House, Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum, The Fogg Museum at Harvard University, the Polaroid Collection, and the Elton John Collection.