Giving an identity to the unknown: Toby Coulson's hedges and faces
When we set a photographer into a specific artistic trend rather than another we are simply considering his or her work as a monolithic block. Probably it has always been the biggest problem of critics showing such narrow judges and pigeonholing artists into this or that.
The work of an artist can shift from a style to another during the time or be a kaleidoscope at the same time.
Why such a foreword? Because we are going to introduce Toby Coulson, the photographer of hedges and portraits. One might think ‘Oh hedges, wow such a way to diminish the photographer’ whilst Coulson gives us an interesting interpretation of hedges, they are the way people seek their privacy but also a form of expression (the way people lovingly shape or sculpt them).
Coulson said that he was highly influenced by the American photographer Joel Sternfeld and his work American Prospects (1987), and the American society is the one that seeks its privacy behind a fence rather than a hedge that it’s more appropriate for English society.
What Coulson also admires of Sternfeld is the use of colour, in fact Joel Sternfeld work helped to establish colour photography as a respected artistic medium during the 70’s.
However, it is also the works of William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Diane Arbus that influenced his personal project Belfast Road. Like the Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach, famous for the portrait of Martin Luther, Coulson is a modern acute portraitist. He moved to Belfast Road five years ago. This small street in the heart of North East London offers him an ethnical diversity and a kaleidoscope of cultures.
This combination of cultures mixed to his talent turned everyday and banal subjects into intriguing beautiful portraits. He spent a year photographing people of the area, spending time with the subjects and building a relationship with them.
Coulson stated that photography is a market place over saturated, but what is obvious is that his work emerges from the mass, from the faces of shots we see every day on social networks, because his faces are in the middle between fascinating and strange, plus he seems to have the knowledge of paint portraiture’s roots .
Saying that, it is hard to imagine Coulson at a very early age photographing chickens and cats as he said in many interviews.