by Daryle Dickens
Cole Thompson is a man who was born in a black and white world. The movies he grew up with were black and white. Television was black and white. The news that brought him the world was black and white. So Cole creates images in black and white. His work can be found in local galleries here in Fort Collins as well as national magazines. Cole’s work creates beauty through simplicity.
ZAF622: Do you shoot film or digital?
Cole Thompson: Its funny because I was just in B&W magazine and I am getting probably 1 a day people e-mailing who are people my age who shot film all their life who have heard all these horror stories and been told terrible things about digital. But they want to go there but they’ve heard all those stories. But when they see my images they go “wow!” I thought digital was just for color family photography, not doing fine art. They ask me can you do this? Or can you do that? How do you do it? So I think there are a ton of people out there who want to do it but are afraid to. They’ve heard stories that digital can’t do this or that or it doesn’t look real. When I look at my images I can’t see a difference between them and film images.
ZAF: So how long have you been doing this?
CT: I started up when I was 14 and did it really heavy till I was 20 and was living in Rochester New York and I was going to go to RIT and become a photographer, that was my dream, to be a photographer. I don’t know why but something hit me that if I did it for a living I probably wouldn’t enjoy it like I did. You know I’d probably get off work and not want to go out shooting, I’d want to get away from it. I worried that I wouldn’t have a joy in it or if I did it for a living I’d have to produce what the public wanted. Rather than what I wanted. So whether that was inspiration or what ever it was I did not go into photography. I thought I could just do it on the side but family and work and a job gets in the way and I really did not pick up a camera for 35 years. So which way would have been better I don’t know. It was when I started to see more about digital that it started to peak my interest and in 2003 I bought a fairly inexpensive camera and messed around with it a bit. But it was the 6 mega pixel digital rebel that really got me going again in 2004. So in my portfolio I think I have 2 or 3 images from my film days and everything else is brand new.
ZAF: You have a pretty extensive portfolio for the amount of time you’ve been shooting.
CT: I think my progress has been pretty steady in these 3 years.
ZAF: How often do you shoot?
CT: Well because I am starting off, I’ll say later in life, I’ve got less time. I don’t have the luxury of starting when I am in my 20’s and having a long career and being discovered like Ansel Adams. I’ve got to make up for lost time. So I try to shoot everyday. But lately I am finding the business end of it, submitting, putting up shows, takes so much time that you can see why artists hate it because it takes you away from doing what you love. To do typically the thing you don’t love. You know writing artist’s statements and sending off portfolios, calling people and putting up shows. So I am probably down to once a week shooting. But I carry the camera with me in the car and I try to make a point to never pass a scene and say, “oh I am going to go back and get that.” Because I find there is no going back. The light changes, or the leaves come out, or something changes. You gotta get the shot right then and there no matter what. Even if it means being late for an appointment or whatever, you gotta stop and get it or you’ll never see it again.
ZAF: Do you get support from your family?
CT: Well they’re a little mad at me right now. Because I am either at work or I am in the digital darkroom. I’ve kinda disappeared, I don’t know how to balance things. I tend to be obsessive compulsive, I get on one project and I just work it to death. I need to do a little bit better on the balancing routine.
ZAF: Do you find other photographers to be supportive?
CT: Oh yes, completely.
ZAF: So growing up in Rochester NY did Kodak have an influence on you?
CT: That is how I got started. I don’t remember the particulars but for some reason I needed to read a book or I wanted to read a book and because I lived there I read the biography of George Eastman. And just reading that book captivated me. The thought of photography, I mean the science of it and everything. Capturing an image. I was just hooked. After reading that book me and my brother bought a Sears enlarger and developing kit that you can make 4x6 photos with. And commandeered the family bathroom, and the first time seeing that image coming out of the developer is like magic. That is what started it.
ZAF: Do you have any photographers that you look up to?
CT: The old masters. Primarily Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. Two very different photographers. Weston is probably “the master” next to Adams in the 40s and 50s. They were close friends and collaborators. Those are my influences. The guy who excites me today is Michael Kenna. Unbelievable stuff, black and white, incredibly simple landscapes.
To view more of Cole’s work and find out what he is up to these days visit his website: