Profile No. 8—Chiara Zonca (@shadowontherun)

Chiara Zonca wrote to me last July that her “story with photography is split in two.” As a teenager growing up in Milan, Italy, she fell in love with the idea of being a photographer and studied it for three years. Formal study, she explained later, only led to feelings of defeat and of mediocrity. “I kept comparing myself with others,” she said, “and decided I wasn’t good enough.”

Instead of trying to turn photography into a career, Zonca gave up on it for a while, going into business as a video editor and motion designer. She moved to London “as soon as [she] could,” since she had never really felt at home in Milan. Though editing and motion design proved to be a good means of supporting herself, she realized about three years ago that she had become frustrated and anxious again. Its source, she said, was “living in a city and a nine-to-five job and all of that,” and it manifested itself as “the horrible feeling that [her] life was going in the wrong direction.” That was when she rediscovered her love of travel.

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Profile No. 7—Emmanuel Monzon

N.B.  I conducted Emmanuel’s interview in his native French. Any awkwardness or poor phrasing in the direct quotes is entirely the fault of the translator.

For Emmanuel Monzon, his transition from three-dimensional art to photography was the result of a conscious decision. He had used photography and digital cameras to aid his art, but did not consider himself a photographer, having only studied photography in the context of contemporary art. He was, at that point, a plastic artist who used cameras as a tool. But ten years ago, he wrote, he felt the need to “completely dive into photography” after completing a three-dimensional art project that involved taking urban-landscape photographs and reproducing them to 1:1 scale.

Monzon had no formal background in photography. Born in Paris, he attended L’École des Beaux-Arts to study painting, graduating with honors. He remained in Paris after his graduation, transitioning to the plastic arts after a brief period of exclusively painting. Some time later, he moved to Singapore with his wife, where they lived for until she received a job offer that required them to relocate to Seattle, where they have lived with their two children for six years.

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Profile No. 6—Chase Hart (@myfridayfilms)

[Above: not Chase. See full photo credits at end.]

Whenever I conduct interviews, I always ask the interviewee if there’s anything especially important that they haven’t said yet. Chase Hart (better known as @myfridayfilms* on Instagram) just wrote one sentence: “I’m only a love letter away.” Though it may or may not have been a reference to a Voxtrot song from 2005, the sentence still reminded me of the overall mood of his 35mm fashion photographs: perfectly constructed in a seemingly offhand way, entrancing, and beautifully open-ended.

Hart grew up in South Lake Tahoe, a mountain town in northeastern California on the Nevada border near various internationally-renowned ski areas. “A lot of the people from my hometown are or were pro snowboarders,” he said, “and that circle [was] really art-driven.” From a relatively early age, he continued, he was “surrounded by older kids with good tastes in art and film.” The intersection of art, film, and snowboarding led him to start shooting full-length videos of his friends and other snowboarders on the mountain.

* “What’s the origin of that?” I asked him.
“I love the Cure, like a lot.”

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Profile No. 5—Cody Cobb

This is a profile of Cody Cobb.
“Photography has always been my way of capturing escape attempts,” Cody Cobb wrote. Professionally, he’s a graphic designer, and though he finds the work fulfilling, he spends lots of time on a computer and in what he termed the “inside world,” which he feels the need to periodically escape through photography. In his native Louisiana, he escaped into abandoned buildings; after moving to Seattle, Washington, he started escaping into the wilderness.

That was in late August 2005, when he received a job offer from the Seattle office of the design studio Digital Kitchen and moved from Baton Rouge. Cobb later referred to the timing of the move as “traumatic,” as it happened the same week as Hurricane Katrina, but was careful to add that things eventually worked out. Once he had settled in, he wrote, he “really fell in love with the Pacific Northwest.”

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Profile No. 4—Natalie Christensen (@natalie_santafe)

I found it hard to believe Natalie Christensen when she told me that she had never studied art formally, and didn’t start taking photographs until relatively recently. Her minimalistic, deconstructed urban landscapes, which she posts daily on Instagram, give the impression of a mature artist with a long career. Yet Christensen’s work ethic and commitment have allowed her to become just as artistically successful and accomplished as some of her older contemporaries.

In fact, Christensen’s academic background is in psychology and psychotherapy, with a concentration on the theories of Carl Jung. She has been a practicing psychotherapist for more than twenty-five years and, together with her analyst and teacher, Dr. Robert Cunningham, she explored Jung’s theory of the shadow self. As Christensen explained it, this involved “getting acquainted with the parts of ourselves that we deny or choose not to see…[which are] revealed to us in dreams and in our waking life when we encounter people that we have a strong negative reaction to.”

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Profile No. 3—Jacob Morel (

Jacob Morel has been making images as long as he can remember. Growing up in a suburb south of Baltimore, it was drawing — he carried a pen and paper nearly everywhere — but about five years ago, drawing took a backseat and photography took over. He’d first learned how to develop and print in a seventh-grade shop class, a process he said “amazed” him. Before that, he occasionally used his parents’ camera. When they got the film back from the lab, he liked to sit and alternately look at the negatives and at their corresponding prints.

Yet Morel didn’t start to see photography as a serious hobby until late in high school. He took pictures with a compact digital camera to aid his drawing, but found himself paying more and more attention to the photographs rather than the drawings. He soon started entering and winning photography contests. When he was a senior, some of his pictures were displayed in the United States Capitol in Washington. A camera replaced the pen and paper.

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Profile No. 2—Vincent Tullo

In a way, Vincent Tullo’s photography career began before he started college. “I used to bring a little camera around to photograph my friends and me skateboarding,” he told me in an email, “and over time I noticed I was skateboarding less and taking pictures more.” His documentary instincts have served him well in his work for the New York Times, and his skateboarding background certainly helped him in his work for Thrasher Magazine.

But, if anything, Tullo’s identity as a photographer is defined by his enthusiasm for the art and craft of it. That, too, was anticipated early on by his childhood love of the visual arts, specifically painting and drawing. Today, he says he’ll shoot anything as long as the subject is interesting, and stresses the importance of “[spreading] the love in the photo community.”

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Profile No. 1—Patrick Joust


Photograph by Peter W. Coulson

Patrick Joust does not own a smartphone. “I have…this…kind of phone,” he said, showing me his flip phone. If he didn’t have such a wide following online, his phone choice wouldn’t be all that relevant, nor would his admittedly lukewarm attitude towards Instagram as a platform for photography. But Joust has never been one to approach photography in conventional ways.

Joust didn’t start taking pictures until he was in his twenties. He had studied history and English at Gettysburg College on what he described as a “pre-law track.” He went on to law school but dropped out after six weeks and joined AmeriCorps, which brought him to Baltimore from 2002 to 2003 to tutor adults and children in basic computer skills all around the city. It was the first time he had gotten to know the non-touristed areas of the city, having grown up in Northern California and Pennsylvania.

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