The Quest to Capture Beauty
An update for you on the crazy world of Jez Coulson for you...
When I caught Jez in London for a few words on Photo-Dialogue last October, I knew that Lynda Ward, a friend and regular commentator on P-D, also had him in her sights. Her work has been rather more thorough than my brief chat over a coffee - she intercepted Jez by phone, skype and e-mail as he worked in London, Paris, NYC, Atlanta, Belize and her article (22 pages no less...!) has just been published in the latest edition of The Main Street Rag.
Lynda tells some of the backstory to her article:
'When I first met Jez Coulson in Boston, I was captivated by his passion for photojournalism and photography as well as his "Inscape," to borrow a term from the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins which means "the unified complex of characteristics that give a thing its uniqueness and that differentiates it from other things" (or in this case that gives a person his uniqueness and differentiates him from other people).'
'Inscape' is an interesting term.... how might it translate into visual language?
'In photographer's terms, someone with Inscape is multi-dimensional, meaning that they cannot be captured in a single frame, and not even in a panorama shot. To truly capture someone with a "complex of characteristics" takes patience, great care, and time.'
Lynda was struck by one of the fundamental drives behind Jez's reportage photography. She notes: 'Jez says, "You can look for horror or you can look for humanity. I prefer images that capture the pathos, the humanity. I'm looking for humanity in all circumstances."'
But how does a photographer actually capture 'humanity'?
'Jez has the wonderful ability to "hang," with people', says Lynda, 'Everyone from homeless people (his photo of a New York City homeless man is featured in the magazine) to presidents and movie stars (his photo of George Clooney with President Obama is featured in the magazine as well). Jez's willingness to truly listen to people and to treat them with respect just because they are people — whether or not he agrees with them or their lifestyle — is what gives Jez such amazing access to all sorts of folks in order to photograph them. And his interest in people and his passion for getting to know them is genuine: not driven by a particular agenda or by the desire to simply take their picture. Jez truly loves people, and he has had this passion for people and for photography since he was a little boy.'
'I am grateful to have had the opportunity to interview Jez, an artist with such singular focus, as we worked our way through the ups and downs of his fascinating life and his over 20 year career. Years ago when I was in seminary, one of my professors had a favorite saying: "To be a Jack of all trades is to be a master of none." Jez with his singular vision and focus is, indeed, a master photographer.'
I'm waiting to read the full text of Lynda's article and my copy of the magazine is winging its way to me. Well, it's been winging for a few days now - I guess I'll be hassling the post-man again tomorrow!