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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