Walter Coker's Through the Lens: Ten Years of Photographs

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This feature was  pulled from the Folio archives. It was originally published on January 6, 2009. 

I'd been shooting for Folio Weekly for five years in early 1998 when the idea of a stand-alone photo feature began to take shape. Bob Snell had been the editor for a couple of years at that point and was looking to take the magazine into new areas, both editorially and graphically.

We had seen a couple of other alternative weeklies with photo "columns," and we liked the idea of running outtakes from other assignments, as well as just oddball scenes and characters I came across during my miles of travel around North­east Florida.

There were a number of subjects I'd seen that I thought would be good fodder for the spot, and I was excited to have a new venue for random work that didn't necessarily fit into other editorial coverage.

At the same time, it was more than a little daunting to realize that once the thing started running, I'd have to come up with an image every week worthy of filling the space.

The old photojournalist's creed, "F8 and be there" became my mantra. It refers to the idea that being on the scene with a camera is more important than the technical details of how an image is shot.

When the series began in September 1998, I was carrying my camera bag a fair amount of the time while officially "working." After it began, and to this day, I'm rarely out of reach of my camera, as the search for images no longer has an "off" switch.

The subject of what captions should accompany the photos was a source of some discussion, but I really liked the idea of using just two of the five W's — where and when — leaving the rest up to the viewer to contemplate. Certain images required a caption of some sort, but we've only done that a handful of times over the years. 

What follows is a selection of my favorite photos from the 500-plus I've shot over the past decade, some with the backstory of how they came to be.

– W.C.

HOGAN STREET, JACKSONVILLE, OCT. 5, 1999. This guy used to be a regular in Hemming Plaza, preaching to anyone willing to listen. He initially said no to my request to photo­ graph him, saying “it’s not about me, it’s about the message.” He relented only after I walked with him for several blocks, explaining that I hoped my photo­graph would help him send “the message.”
HOGAN STREET, JACKSONVILLE, OCT. 5, 1999. This guy used to be a regular in Hemming Plaza, preaching to anyone willing to listen. He initially said no …

 

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