Photo by Corey Kolb

Passion For Profit

Words by Amiyah Golden

The idea of humanity is truly a beautiful thing when it’s completely stripped to its bare bones: People existing, living and loving.


When I see people living in their true authenticity, it always sends me down this rabbit hole that forces me to inquire about their lives: What do they do? What are their hobbies? Do they have children? Are they happy? And I promise these intrusive thoughts aren’t there to place judgment but to ponder because oftentimes who we see on the exterior cannot confirm the initial biases that we place on people from a first glance. So many people have unique stories full of triumph, happiness, defeat, perseverance and peace. And while we often belittle people due to our own knee-jerk reactions, we don’t take time to examine the root of the beautiful people that surround us.


My personal favorite place to people watch is Jacksonville’s Art Walk. Hosted on the first Wednesday of each month, it is a space organized for local artists and vendors to showcase their products, rappers to freestyle, dogs to wander, fire performers to amaze, etc. (every month truly is something different.) It is the one place I go where I can see a range of individuals who feel so safe expressing themselves. Anytime I get tired of the mundane day-to-day fashions, I stand on the sidewalk watching people, strutting their way through the crowds with unique adornments and outfits that have been thought out to make that individual feel their very best, and you can tell just by the way their energy shines on the outside.


You see non-nuclear families embracing each other and couples expressing sincere love while listening to the talent of the night. And you can also see those who may be less fortunate enjoying themselves — having a moment of relief because no one stops to pass judgment. Everyone is co-existing in this beautiful moment of time, and it’s a moment that is worth capturing.


While many photographers can capture these moments, one photographer in particular stood out to me the last time I visited October’s monthly affair. In the middle of the street stood a vintage camera, two red chairs, a couple humans and Corey Kolb.


As soon as I saw the beauty before my eyes, a Graflex Crown Graphic camera, I began to “nerd” out. Pretty sure everyone in my radius heard me yapping on-and-on about how I couldn’t believe it. I instantly made my way toward Kolb and the camera, ready to empty out my pockets for a picture but Kolb said it was free.


I was perplexed because he had so much opportunity to make so much money giving people an experience with a film camera invented a century ago. I offered again, and Kolb reassured me it was no cost. I sat down in the red seat (feeling a bit bad) and was greeted by a lens, an iPhone, and instructions to sit still. I offered my best smile and waited for the photo to develop. My friend who accompanied me that night went next.


The photo was developed but turned out quite dark. I wasn’t surprised because of the mechanics behind film cameras — lighting can be tricky, especially with being outside. We are so spoiled with our smartphones and DSLR cameras that for the average person this would feel like a defeatist moment, but film photography is a process that involves patience and limited expectations.


Kolb was prepared, so we simply tried again. That iPhone I mentioned earlier served as a light sensor with the app Image Junkie on his phone, being used to measure his lighting. Lighting is important in all photography but especially when using film.


I plopped back up on the red chair and gave an even wider smile; posture adjusted, braces on display — and FLASH — Kolb had attached a flash bulb as the night sky covered us. And now we waited once more. The photo was perfect. Capturing a moment in time where strangers gathered to watch me pose — inciting a slight moment of uncomfortability — but also serving as a constant reminder of the night where I met so many beautiful souls new and old alike.


I couldn’t keep the photo Kolb took, but I took a picture of it and will cherish that moment forever. But don’t fret, my picture is not just floating in the abyss but is safe with Kolb who keeps all the photos he took, a personal project that, I think, serves as an authentic archive on the interesting humans who reside in this city. He scans the film and shares the images to his Instagram. So if you weren’t there, you can still see the many faces who frequented his camera.


Kolb’s love for film sparked from his daughter who had an Instax II. He was curious — and a bit jealous — and purchased a NONS SL645 camera. This camera allowed him to explore film, which thrust him into a deep collection of even more cameras with each having a specific “pro” to them.


“I really like the Polaroid Big Shot just for taking portraits,” said Kolb. “And I enjoy the SLR Instax mini for physical prints.”


Kolb also refurbishes cameras including a couple Graflex Crown Graphics he plans to sell. As a one-man show, he can also develop his own film — which is a meticulous process in itself — and illustrates his work using digital media such as his iPad.

He takes inspiration from “Wall Street Journal illustrator” Noli Novak who creates “hedcut” illustrations, a technique that involves pen and ink, developed originally by artists who worked at the WSJ. You can also check out Kolb’s illustrations on his Instagram.


But in all this Kolb does not profit financially. It is all driven by pure interest and fondness for photography and art which is such a beautiful thing to witness.


With an eye that is so talented and a degree in graphic design and visual media from the University of North Florida, Kolb has all the power to truly turn this into a career but is adamant on keeping the two separate — which is understandable. I am truly a fan of Kolb’s photography and if he ever decides to start selling his work, I’ll be the first in line. But for now you can admire his photography on his Instagram.


Make sure you catch him at the next ArtWalk and if you are a photography enthusiast like I am or if you have a blossoming interest in photography, Kolb would be a great source to talk to. For now I will continue to enjoy the work Kolb is doing, by sharing the beautiful outtakes in this city we call home from his very own perspective.


 To see Kolb’s work, check out his Instagram: @corey_kolb.