Paul Coutherut started submitting photos to us one at a time a few months back. They would make there way through the office as a lot of our favorite submissions do, conversations ensue and we start to notice a recurring pattern from certain photographers. Paul was one of those. We kept coming back to his photos. Finally someone said, “This photo is insane.” So we asked for more.
Once we learned a bit more about Paul and his story, and how all his photos were shot on film and had a determined mood to them, we decided we had to hit him up. Check his gallery below, read his story and be sure to check some of his work in print in What Youth Issue 18, on sale June 27th.
WHAT YOUTH: How did you get into photography?
PAUL COUTHERUT: I suffered an injury to my lower back and herniated three disks and my doctor broke the news to me that I would never be able to skate again. I was lost and confused because skating was all I knew and what I truly cared about from a young age. I saw countless doctors that told me there was nothing they could do for me and the unbearable pain I was in would only get worse. I started feeling more distant from my friends and my loved ones because I was falling deeper into a depression by not being able to live the life that I had come to love. I spent years in physical therapy, and ended up finally getting spinal surgery. I wanted so badly to still be involved with skateboarding so I bought a Nikon FM2 and started photographing my friends. The first two years of shooting I was in in horrible pain, but it didn’t matter because I was finally happy again. The whole experience has made me so much more grateful for what I have in my life and brought me closer to my friends, skateboarding and introduced me to my new love of photography.
What do you love about shooting film? And do you shoot digital?
I love the imperfections in film and the anticipation of not knowing exactly how my photos are going to come out. Everything happens so fast and it would take something away if i shot it till I knew it was perfect with a digital camera.
Do you remember the first time you realized “This is what I want to do?” Like, the first time you made a photograph that made you want to keep doing it or that felt like your own?
I shot a photo of my friend Brad in the Navy Yard in Brooklyn skating in front a wall covered in flowers. I had always thought it was such a beautiful wall and when i got the film back it gave me a feeling inside just like I used to get when i would land a trick. I was immediately addicted.
How did you develop your skills? technically and creatively. Did you go to school or have a mentor?
I started with a notepad in my back pocket. After shooting a roll I would log how I set my camera for each image. It was a super slow process, but it was a rewarding way to teach myself how to take photos. My friends Andrew White and Daniel Zvereff would always help me with any questions I had and would point me in the right direction with photography.
Click on gallery below for full screen view:
Did you ever consider photography as a career path?
Photography came to me in such a unique way that its something I’ve never taken too seriously. I would love to be able to do it more and travel the world shooting what I love, and I am working towards that, but I am content with where I am and how I got here. I’m just happy to have a camera and some film. I am happy.
What do you do when you’re not shooting?
I work in a wood shop called ReadySet in Brooklyn with a group of my friends. My boss is really great and lets the guys use the space for personal projects. I try to make time to work on paintings and furniture when I’m not out skating.
Do you feel that social media has altered photography for the better or worse?
I personally believe it is for the better. People are connecting with each others work from all around the world. There is a constant back and forth of shared inspiration between all types of artists. I think if you love photography, it shouldn’t matter how the photos were taken or where you saw it.
What are you into shooting now?
I’m mostly photographing the day to day lifestyle of my friends in New York City. I think the things that happen in-between is a very beautiful part of skateboarding. I always love seeing the behind the scenes of it all, the process of our lives, rather than just the tricks alone. A lot of skateboarding is the interactions you have with people as your exploring whatever city you’re in, and to me photographing all of it, is something I love doing.