Interview with Photographer – Bob Coulter

Models – Jiz Lee and Syd Blakovich

DJ Cobalt 60: A lot of your career if not all of your career as a photographer hasn’t been very premeditated you literally started as a joke and only picked up a camera when you couldn’t find any photographers to take pictures for the site. Before embarking on your path as a photographer you were a musician and a record producer and got to work with such artists as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Keith Richards and Queen Latifah just to name a few. I particularly have to give you props for being involved in the creation of two of my all-time favorite albums De La Soul’s “3 Feet High and Rising” and Stetsasonic’s “In Full Gear”. At what point did you realize that you actually liked and enjoyed photography?

Bob Coulter: Thank you. I realized I liked photography from my very first photo shoot. I immediately liked what I was coming up with. The pictures looked like I was hanging out backstage at some music club, which was what I was going for, to me they looked super cool. Aside from the first few shoots, where I hadn’t a clue how my camera worked or what to do with the lights, taking pictures was the easiest thing I’d ever done. Thankfully the first few models I shot knew cameras and lighting and gave me a hand.

Model – Bella Vendetta

DJ Cobalt 60: Does it still feel weird to call yourself a bona fide photographer?

Bob Coulter: Yes. I mean, I’ve never been “hired” to take pictures for anyone, I’ve only shot for myself. The funny thing about taking pictures is, it’s EXACTLY the same as recording/producing music. Once you get past the technical stuff, what you’re really doing is trying to get the best performance out of whoever you’re working with, and I’ve always been good at that.

DJ Cobalt 60: What’s your set-up like? How has is evolved over the years? How much equipment do you typically bring to a shoot?

Bob Coulter: Extremely minimal. I use a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon flash. I trigger the flash with a Pocket Wizard. I put the flash on a stand and usually point it somewhere towards the model. When I first started I used continuous lights, but my friend Peter Gorman (awesome photographer suggested I try using a flash. Since then I’ve only used a flash. I set both the camera and the flash to manual. The lighting is a combination of room or natural light mixed with my flash. Since I don’t take advantage of Canon’s auto settings I suppose any flash would do. The problem I’ve found with professional strobes is, for me, they put out far too much light. Even on the lowest setting I find the Canon flash is too bright at times. Some time’s I’ll put a gel over the front of it to shut it down more. I’ve tried using 2 or 3 flashes and more complex lighting setups, but I move around a lot, and when I do that, I start to get bogged down, and the model gets bored. I’d rather keep things flowing and fun, rather than worry about better lighting. Besides equipment, I’ve always shot solo (no assistants), just the model and me. When other people are around, whether they are assistants, makeup/hair, whatever, the pictures don’t look as relaxed or spontaneous, they look posed and contrived.

Model – Priscilla

DJ Cobalt 60: What are the types of images that tend to leave an impression on you?

Bob Coulter: I don’t know, I don’t have particular things that impress me. It’s pretty easy to see what’s good and what’s not.

DJ Cobalt 60: I love your style you place more emphasis on your models looking cool and sexy than on the fact that they are nude, your images remind me of noir films or more accurately neo noir films of the 1990’s, what directors David Fincher and Alex Proyas were channeling visually with their work at that time.

Bob Coulter: When I start shooting I get pretty focused on trying to make things look good and I’m not thinking about what the model is wearing. I’ll be shooting away, and after half an hour or so, the model says, should I take something off? I’m like, Oh ya, good idea…. I tend to know exactly what I want, but you can’t always get exactly what you want when you’re working with someone else. So I kinda let the model do her thing, and I do my thing, then after a bit we’ll sit down and take a look at what the pictures are looking like. In other words I kind of don’t really care if the model has cloths on or not, I’m more into cool looking pictures. So ya, what you said is exactly how I feel.

Model – Mayhem

DJ Cobalt 60: True to form your photo shoots are mostly improvised all you need is a cool looking location and a model and you’re good to go. I know you like to abide to the philosophy that less is more. Are there constraints you like to place on yourself to ensure you don’t go too over board during a photo shoot and take more pictures than you need or do you just throw caution to the wind?

Bob Coulter: You’re totally right, about my shoots being improvised. I usually go pick up the model, talk to her about what sort of look she likes, and what I’d like. Then figure out where to go shoot. Lots of the times I’ll ask the model to come up with a place, so I won’t have seen it before shooting. The only locations that don’t work for me are new places that look nice, especially with white walls. In fact, most places that people want to live in, don’t work for my pictures. I need some sort of contrast, like a beautiful model in a location that makes no sense why she’d be there. After that I don’t place any restraints on myself or on the model. I’m not sure I know what overboard even means. When I first started shooting I’d take a picture then change angles and take another picture. A one point years ago, I shot a few models in a row that were not very good models. I found the only way I could get good pictures with them was to take a LOT of pictures very quickly, then change positions. I started thinking about that, and realized I should do that even when I’m working with great models. If you shoot say 4 or 5 pictures within a few seconds, one of those pictures always looks better than the others. So I do that now and use the best picture. I mean it’s digital, it’s not going to cost more, and you end up with much better pictures.

Model – Adriana

DJ Cobalt 60: Explain the relationship with your subjects – how do you ensure they feel comfortable in front of the camera? Some of your models are freelance, others have pay sites and some are porn stars. Does the way you approach each vary? I personally think you are consistently able to get a performance out of your models and a lot of my favorite images of yours are the ones you shot with porn stars like Charlotte Stokely, Kimberly Kane and Indigo Augustine.

Bob Coulter: I don’t treat famous models any differently than someone who’s never modeled before. Like I said earlier shooting pictures is the same as producing music. You need to somehow be able to make the performer comfortable. One thing I know I do that helps, is I get super focused on what I’m doing. I think the model takes that as a sign I’m trying my best to get good pictures and she steps up her end of things, plus with me focusing on my thing she doesn’t get inhibited thinking I’m judging her. Also things like, I’ll say, “That looked awesome! Let’s try that again but with such and such expression or attitude”. Some models are more dominant than others. You can’t be telling dominant models, do this, do that, you need to focus on your part which is making what they’re doing look good. I can have a set idea on how I want the picture to look, and that’s fine, that works, but if you have a set idea on how you want the model to look, most of the time, it’s not going to work, you need to let the model do her own thing, with a few suggestions or compliments here and there. It’s funny, but compliments tend to work better than saying things like, “that looks fucking stupid”. AND as much as I can, I make my shoots seem like friends just hanging around, like it’s a party.

Models – Annika and Indigo Augustine

DJ Cobalt 60: Your photos can sometimes be a lot more explicit that what normally gets categorized as nude, glamour or even erotic photographer i.e. your models have posed with their legs open and you can clearly see their genitals.

Bob Coulter: You’re right I like models showing their pussy. I don’t tell my models to do that BTW, if it happens and they’re comfortable with it, then it happens. If they aren’t, then it doesn’t. I always show the pictures to the models before I show them to anyone else. If they want me to nix some of the pictures I take them out.

Model – Indigo Augustine

DJ Cobalt 60: This tends to be a taboo subject within photography people start yelling porn whenever the female anatomy is on full display.

Bob Coulter: I have no interest in being an art photographer. If people think I am cool, if they don’t, that’s fine too. I don’t’ really care what people say or think. There are WAY too many opinionated people in this world who get into other people’s business. If they don’t like my pictures, whatever, don’t look at them. I’m not forcing my pictures on anyone. I mean what do you think if you hear “artistic nude photography”. What I think is, “black and white”, “sepia”, “bending torsos”, “plain background”, “not sexy”, “BORING”. I mean I don’t wanna have people who are into artistic nude photography to my house for dinner, it will be a boring evening. Would you rather have dinner with Kenny G or Keith Richards?

DJ Cobalt 60: What do you think you are able to express as a photographer by having your models pose in such a manner that you can’t otherwise?

Bob Coulter: I don’t pose my models, and I’m just trying to make it look Rock and Roll.

DJ Cobalt 60: Do you think a lot of people miss interpret your work? Are you trying to shock or provoke your viewers?

Model – Charlotte Stokley

Bob Coulter: I don’t have an answer to whether people miss interpret my work. Actually I don’t think I leave much to interpretation. I have almost zero communication with people who look at my photography. It’s not like I get emails daily with people telling me what they think of my pics. The few emails I get are guys asking what kind of camera I’m using, or how did you take that picture? I don’t think it’s very easy to shock people any more.

DJ Cobalt 60: What is an image of yours that you believe best represents your style and aesthetic and what was the situation surrounding it?

Bob Coulter: I have a LOT of pictures like those, but the first picture of mine that comes to mind right now that I feel represents my style and aesthetic is this one of “Sochee Mala”;

Model – Sochee Mala

It’s rock and roll. It’s sexy. Why is this beautiful woman sitting naked on some gross carpet in a complete shithole. The situation surrounding it is, Sochee emailed me and said she liked my pictures and could we shoot. I picked her up and headed to my fave location, the Elk Hotel. She took one look at the place and fell in love.

DJ Cobalt 60:  Given the opportunity to photograph any person living or dead who would you choose?

Bob Coulter: Eve, or perhaps both her and Adam together.

MY DREAM CAMERA…I’m really not into gear. I tend to use one camera and get comfortable with it so I don’t have to think much when I want a different look. Like I said earlier, for years now it’s been a Canon 5D or their newer models. But it’s definitely not a “dream camera”, it’s more of a tractor, those cameras are boring, but they take awesome pictures. When I first started shooting I LOVED the Nikon Coolpix 950, they were the ones where the body twisted. It was way more fun shooting with those than Canon 5D cameras which feel like you’re holding a brick. The thing is, the Canon takes amazing pictures.

A GOOD LOCATION FOR A PHOTO SHOOT…places that look fucked up. My favorite place ever was the Elk Hotel in Times Square, but it’s closed now. But even before it closed they kicked me out, and wouldn’t let me back. Apparently they were fine with people hiding from the law, or with down and out drug addicts, but god forbid someone rents a room there and takes some pictures.

I LOVE IT WHEN MODELS get me, get my sense of humor, and get what I’m after.

THE LAST TIME A PHOTO LEFT ME SPEECHLESS…that happens sometimes, but it’s always a fluke.

MY IDEA OF SUCCESS…being able to do whatever you want to do, any time you want to do it. I can’t do that yet BTW.

IF I COULD BE PART OF THE RECORDING OF ANY ALBUM IN HISTORY…”Highway 61″, “Blonde on Blonde”, “Exile on Main St.”, “Ziggy Stardust”, if I have to pick just one, I suppose the first one.

DJ Cobalt 60: For people interested in your work or would like to learn more about you where can they go?

Bob Coulter: Pretty much every picture I’ve ever shot is on so that’s the place. As of this week there are over 180,000 pictures and 97 videos there.

Model – Luxi Jane

DJ Cobalt 60: Do you have any new books or projects planned that people should keep a look out for?

Bob Coulter: I don’t have any new books planned. I’d like to, but books aren’t selling any more. In fact I’m not really taking pictures much these days. There’s no money in it. I’m working on other ideas that are Internet/Tech related but have nothing to do with photography. The only pictures I’m shooting these days is, if a model is crazy hot, they find a cool location for us to shoot at, and all I have to do is show up.

DJ Cobalt 60: Is there any you would like to thank who has supported you throughout your career or been instrumental to your career?

Bob Coulter: Well most of all I’d really Really REALLY like to thank my wife Elise who has put up with my ridiculous behavior of taking beautiful women to weird places and getting them naked. I’d also like to thank all of my models who were all part of this strange thing I’ve been doing for years.

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