“My Desk is in a converted warehouse in north London that used to be a pleating factory. A friend and I have recently converted it to a live and work space with a studio. We have only just finished the work so it’s exciting times.”
Toby Coulson studied photography at University College Falmouth. His work has appeared in many galleries including the AOP gallery and the National Portrait Gallery as part of the Taylor Wesssing portrait prize. Publications include The Guardian, Source Photographic Review and The Evening Standard. He lives and works in London.
FROM YOUR DESKS: How do you work?
TOBY COULSON: I normally like to photograph quite slowly. I’m not really looking for a decisive moment, but beauty in the everyday.
TC: I’m very attached to two cameras that I do a lot of my personal work on — a Mamiya 7 and a Mamiya RZ67.
FYD: What is your favourite or most required work tool?
TC: That has to be my camera.
FYD: How do you approach framing a portrait and how important is it to know your subjects?
TC: If I’m on an editorial shoot and only have ten minutes to photograph someone I’ve never met, it can be tough to make a connection with the subject. Given the luxury of time, I would always like to do two sittings for a portrait. It’s very important to know your subject and for them to have trust in you.
FYD: What photographers do you like to revisit for inspiration?
TC: My all-time favourites are Paul Graham, Alec Soth, Joel Sternfeld, Taryn Simon, David Goldblatt, William Eggleston, Robert Frank and Daniel Meadows.
It’s very important to know your subject and for them to have trust in you.
FYD: Via your Show, talk about the relationship of these individual competitors to their pets. We’ve all seen Christopher Guest’s improvisational Best In Show, how dedicated are these owners to their respective animals and vice versa?
TC: I haven’t actually seen Best in Show, but I just checked out the trailer and it looks really funny! The relationships between the individuals varies — some are household pets that are loved and doted on, but others (more so with the rabbits and pigeons) are bred in large numbers specifically for showing and winning competitions. With these animals, there seemed to be more of a detachment from the owner.
FYD: Do animals and humans mirror one another either looks or behaviour wise? Do they borrow or take on own traits of their owner?
TC: Yes, definitely. There’s so much dedication and passion involved; much in the same way that football fans will live for football and become obsessive over it. All of this time spent together definitely creates a similarity in behaviour, as bizarre as it sounds for a person to be similar to a pigeon!
FYD : What was the most unique animal your lens has captured?
TC: Hairless cats are very unique. Not only in their appearances; they have their own individual characters. They’re very inquisitive and seem to have a self-importance and a superiority to them.
FYD: You showcase the diversity of people living in London. What has been the most surprising reveal in this pursuit?
TC: I was already aware of the diversity of people living in London but wanted to do a series of portraits to celebrate this. I used my road as a perimeter to take these portraits. It was amazing to see the different nationalities and backgrounds from such a small area of London- nearly every person that I photographed came from outside of London. In big cities, there’s less communication, for example saying hello to people on the street or talking to our neighbours. It was great to talk to everyone and gain an insight to their lives.
FYD: What do you love about personal projects –a freedom to capture whatever you desire?
TC: Yes, I suppose everyone gets in to photography with a passion to capture something. I’m drawn to the unexpected, to seeing new places and meeting new people, this is what interests me about personal projects.
I’m drawn to the unexpected…
FYD: How do you spend your free time ?
TC: Photography is great because it gives you an excuse to go to places and wander around, which is something I like to do in my free time. My other main passion is surfing.
FYD: What is your favorite surf spot?
TC: Surfing England can be frustrating, conditions have to be just right for spots work (wind, swell direction, size and tide). If all of these are right, there isn’t any where I’d rather be than Gwenver Beach Land’s End.