Toby Coulson – A 2011 LPA Futures Winner

Photographs ©Toby Coulson

Every 2 years LPA (Lisa Pritchard Agency) one of the UK’s leading photographers agents, runs a competition to find 5 up and coming commercial photographers to be represented as part of a 2 year programme.

Since its launch in 2007 the competition and the division have increased in popularity, attracting much positive recognition.

Aside from the invaluable advice and insight an experienced agent can offer to photographers at this crucial stage in their careers, LPA Futures provides a welcome springboard, fast tracking recognition in a highly competitive industry.

UK based Toby Coulson was just named a Lisa Pritchard Agency Futures 2011 winner. He was generous enough to answer a few questions for us.

How do you think winning something like this will change the trajectory of your career?

Pursuing photography as a career as we all know is very tough, trying to get your work seen in a market place that is already over saturated with imagery can often be a very solitary disheartening business. Having the backing of a respected agency like LPA will give me the confidence in my work to push for bigger jobs and continue getting my work out there.

What are your plans for the next couple of years? I know from talking to many of my photographer friends they usually go down one of two paths. Either pursuing editorial jobs while working personal projects on the side, or they spend a few years dedicated to a single project with the aim of building a career around that.

My plan is to continue with paid jobs to get money together to fund my personal projects. I think the only way to progress to working on bigger jobs is by generating new work for my portfolio that is original and will catch the eye of Art Directors and clients.

What tips do you have for people who are thinking about going to school for photography?

I think that studying photography is a great way to explore your interests and develop your work into your own style but at the same time it is also easy to get stuck in the student bubble. It is a big shock leaving Uni and realizing how tough the industry is to break into. It is very important to be aware of the work being created in the industry and to set this as your benchmark.

Who are some of the photographers that have influenced your work?

I was very influenced by earlier British photographers such as Daniel Meadows, Keith Arnett, and Chris Killip whose beautiful touching portraits I found very inspiring, other influences are Joel Sternfeld, Paul Graham Taryn Simon, David Goldblatt and Toby Glanville to name a few.

When you’re making a portrait, how do you approach the subject? Do you chat with them for awhile first? How do you make them comfortable with the process?

A lot of the portraits I have taken are a result of at least two sittings with the subject. For me it is definitely about spending time with the subject and building a relationship with them. I like not to have to much of a fixed idea of how I want the finished result to look and allow that to develop through the course of the shoot.

I know it’s hard to come up with a single answer but what would you say you hope to achieve with your personal projects, for example The Road Between?

With a project like the Road Between I think It is the process I enjoy the most. I love how photography takes you to places that you would otherwise never go and puts you in situations that wouldn’t come about in day to day life. I don’t think there is something I am specifically trying to say with the project but I hope it creates a reaction or feeling from the viewer.