Profile No. 11—Ed Freeman

Above: from “Desert Realty.”

You’ve probably already come into contact with Ed Freeman’s work, albeit not the sort of work I’m writing about. After dropping out of Oberlin College in the late 1960s to pursue his dream of being a musician, he was signed to Capitol Records. “That didn’t go anywhere,” he said, until he ran into a friend who was connected to Columbia Records. His friend mentioned that Columbia was about to record another singer-songwriter, and asked Freeman if he wanted to produce the album.

That record, the first he ever produced, was Don McLean’s American Pie. The eponymous single achieved #1 positions on charts in America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and the album itself topped the Billboard 200 chart for a month and a half until it was dethroned by Neil Young’s Harvest. Freeman continued to produce records until the 1980s. Production, he later told me, was never something he intended to do for the rest of his career; he wanted to create something on his own.

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Profile No. 10—J.M. Giordano

Photo of J.M. Giordano by Sean Scheidt. All other photographs by J.M. Giordano and used with his permission.

“They literally rolled over me; just left me there.” That was what J.M. Giordano told me last July when I asked him about an incident in late April 2015 that received international coverage, where he was knocked to the ground by a group of Baltimore police while trying to photograph the protests and unrest that had been going on since the late afternoon.

Earlier in the night, he had driven into West Baltimore with Sait Serkan Gurbuz, a Reuters photographer; and Baynard Woods, a journalist who worked together with Giordano at City Paper. They stayed close together until they found themselves between a group of twenty or thirty protestors and a group of sixty or seventy police, who, as they charged at the protestors, collided with the two photographers. The police arrested Gurbuz and almost arrested Giordano until Woods intervened, shouting, “He’s a photographer! He’s press!” until they relented.

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Profile No. 9—Nick Sabatalo and 35mm Magazine

Nick shooting Charlotte. All photographs by Peter W. Coulson; see note at end for full credits.

“Oh, that’s good. Nice. Amazing. Who are you?”

It’s 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning and Nick Sabatalo is shooting Charlotte, a model visiting the States from her native France, as she poses by the window of his private studio. She is young enough that in another life, she would be a year or two ahead of me in college, but in real life she’ll soon be featured in 35mm Magazine, the all-film fashion magazine that Sabatalo founded two years ago. Her mother sits on a couch at the opposite end of the room, watching closely and occasionally translating Sabatalo’s directions. (“Turn to the left.” “À gauche, Charlotte.“)

Charlotte is the first of four models Sabatalo plans on shooting that day. Some time earlier, their agency had commissioned him to do a series of test shoots: new models like Charlotte need a professional-quality portfolio that their agency can keep on hand, and one way to do that is for the agency to hire an experienced photographer like Sabatalo to spend a few hours shooting them in various looks. In some instances, such as this one, the looks are picked out by a professional stylist: in this case, Kris Tsvetkova, better known as @krisviva on Instagram, who had styled and modelled for Sabatalo several times in the past.

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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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Making It Compelling, Pt. 2—Framing, Scale, and More

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.

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Making It Compelling, Pt. 1: Color

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.

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