Our founder, Peter W. Coulson, is now officially a contributing writer at NOICE. Magazine! You can read his latest article here: https://www.noicemagazine.com/other-articles/stages-of-music-addiction
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.
Photo by Peter W. Coulson
This is a continuation of Part 1, which talked about using color theory to make compelling images. Today, I’m going to talk about some other techniques that don’t involve color but still can help make your pictures better.
Framing is kind of hard to literally define, but I’ll try: it’s when you take a picture that makes it seem like one or more figures is encapsulated by another figure. In street photography, the encapsulated figure is usually a person or a small group of people, and the encapsulating figure is usually (not always) a three-dimensional form that only appears two-dimensional when it’s photographed from a certain angle. For example, when I photographed the metal structure in the lead image head-on, it showed up as a rectangle in the final picture. I waited for those two people to start to walk by the metal structure, and then fired off about six or seven exposures, one of which captured them as they walked right in front of the structure.
(Here‘s another example. I’m not sure if it was candid or staged — Lewis Hine was probably working with a cumbersome large-format camera, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it was the latter.)
This is a very, very useful technique. It works just as well in large prints as it does on small screens. You don’t need a particularly long or short lens to do it. (I use a 35mm lens on my crop-sensor digital camera, which is roughly a normal lens.) You don’t need to use any special equipment. There’s no shortage of places you can put it into action. Really, all you need is a decent camera and a bit of patience, and you can use it again and again.
A triadic color scheme (cyan, magenta, yellow). All photographs in this article by Peter W. Coulson.
This week is an off week, so I thought I’d write a little bit about making compelling photos. I’m not an expert by any means, and this isn’t a complete list, just a few things involving color that lead to more interesting pictures. I’ll get into more strategies next week.
You should learn it, look for it, and apply it. If you don’t know anything about it, Ted Gore has a good article about it on his website. He doesn’t go into the symbolism associated with the different colors, but we don’t care about that right now. Bookmark the article on your computer and your phone (especially your phone — that way you’ll always be able to reference it) and see if you can recognize any of the basic principles in visual art you encounter in your daily life. Yes, this includes movies and TV shows and advertisements. Cinematographers and art directors study this stuff for years and years; do you really think they’d never use it?
But knowing color theory, in itself, won’t suddenly make your compositions better. Applying it will.
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.
It’s been almost three months since I made Profiles in Photography public. Monday is the official three-month anniversary, but on Tuesday I’m publishing our next profile and I prefer to give meta posts a few days to breathe. What follows is a very loosely organized collection of some stuff related to the site itself that I thought you might want to know about.
Just to clear things up: I often refer to myself as “we” when I’m talking about the site. This is entirely a stylistic choice (the “editorial we,” if you never wrote for your high-school newspaper). I am the sole admin/editor/writer/social-media manager/etc.
Thank you. Thank you all for reading the profiles, following us, liking us, and for everything else. If there were a practical way of individually thanking every single person who had read the site, I would do it in a heartbeat.
I would also like to extend a personal thank-you to everyone we’ve profiled so far: Patrick Joust, Vincent Tullo, Jacob Morel, Natalie Christensen, Cody Cobb, and Chase Hart. There are also five people who’ll be profiled in the future (three whom I’ve already interviewed, two whom I’m going to interview soon) but whose names are under embargo — I see you, and thank you. You are all very kind, hardworking, and generous; thank you for taking the time to either meet with me or answer my interview questions. This site would not exist without you.
A ROUGH TIMELINE
I can’t remember when I first came up with the idea for the site, but I’m pretty sure I first told somebody about it on 22 April 2017, created the WordPress site on 24 April, and registered the domain name on 27 April. The site went live on 14 May, though I had put the finishing touches on it some time before then, and I published the first profile the evening of 23 May.
All of these are current as of 12 p.m. on 9 August 2017 and will probably be slightly different by the time you read this.
- Since the site was created, we’ve received a total of 1,058 views from 485 unique visitors from 37 countries on every continent except Antarctica.
- Our top country by far is the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and France.
- We’ve consistently gotten at least 100 unique visitors per month; our worst-performing month was June and our best-performing one was May. (July saw the most total views but fewer unique visitors.)
- Our top referrer* was Facebook, followed by Instagram, followed by Tumblr in a distant third.
- We’ve got 202 Instagram followers, but only 27 likes on our Facebook page and even fewer Twitter followers. (Which, again, makes sense, since Instagram is a visual medium and all our profiles are about photographers…but please don’t hesitate to like our page or follow us on Twitter.)
*How people got to the site. For example, if you came to this post by clicking on a Facebook link, Facebook would be the referrer, but if you typed “profilesinphotography.com” into the URL bar, WordPress would count that as a referral from a search engine.
All of those numbers are nice to see. Obviously, some of you have a much wider online following than we do, and stats like ours would probably distress you, but 485 unique viewers is still 485 more than three months ago. 202 Instagram followers is still 202 more than three months ago. 37 countries is still 37 more than three months ago. In any creative pursuit, comparing yourself to others is an easy shortcut to depression, burnout, and hopelessness. I’ve been particularly bad about this in the past; I still am, but I’m trying really fucking hard to only compare myself to, well, myself.
If you have questions, comments, concerns, or grievances, please email me at profilesinphotography [at] gmail [dot] com. You can also contact me through the site’s official Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.
[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.”
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.”
Our founder, Peter W. Coulson, has a new article in NOICE. Magazine about the Trump presidency and American survival. Read it here.
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.”