Who I’ve Hired: Chloe Coleman, The Washington Post

September 18, 2018

By Interview David Walker

Chloe Coleman currently works on The Washington Post’s international news desk. She is also a photo editor for Outlook, the newspaper’s weekly section for for news analysis and opinion, and a contributing writer and editor on The Washington Post’s In Sight photo blog. Previously, Coleman worked as a photo editor at NPR and The Denver Post, and has served as a faculty member at The Kalish Visual Editing Workshop.

PDN: Who’s a photographer you were really keen to hire lately?
Chloe Coleman: A photographer that I started hiring earlier this year, that I’d been hoping to hire for a long time, is Tori Ferenc. She’s a medium-format photographer based in London.

PDN: What kind of work does she do, and how did she get on your radar?
C.C.: She does a lot of street photography and portraits. She had sent an email because she was interested in getting some work published on our photography blog. She goes to interesting neighborhoods or quirky events to take pictures. She originally reached out with a portrait series of Hasidic Jews [and] she’s been posting a lot about a horse fair that she’s been [photographing]. I just like her eye, the way she sees. I was a juror for the Magenta Flash Forward contest, and Tori’s work came up again in that. She reached back out, and I had the perfect assignment for her.

PDN: What was the assignment?
C.C.: She’s done several, but the first was a lead-up assignment to the royal wedding. We were looking at the Brixton neighborhood in London and talking to black people [there] about how they feel about Meghan Markle. I just asked [Tori] to go there for the day, and do her thing.

PDN: What did she do with the assignment that was unexpected, or that impressed you?
C.C.: I really like her personal work. I asked her to take pictures the way she would if she wasn’t on assignment for me. She really did that. She really does a good job of going to places and waiting for moments and interesting people. She appears to be a very patient photographer, which I appreciate.

PDN: What images from that assignment stand out in your mind, and why?
C.C.: I’d say the first two photos in the online presentation (also in the gallery shown above). I found the lede photo instantly striking when I saw it on her contact sheet. In terms of news value, it quickly places us in London because of the logo on the bus and it immediately signals we are in a diverse neighborhood. Aesthetically, the composition intentionally uses the space available in a 6×6 frame and is a great example of how [Ferenc] waits for moments by showing her patience for color palette and gesture.

The second photo stood out to me as well because it gave a sense of timelessness and helped me build a visual narrative that showed the cultural variations in the neighborhood.

PDN: Who’s another photographer you’ve hired lately?
C.C.: A couple of photographers have come through recommendations from other photographers. Luisa Dörr recommended Pétala Lopes [who] I put on assignment for a story about how women in Brazil are starting to embrace natural [unstraightened] hair. Pétala took these stunning portraits of women that were strong and powerful—not something you’d necessarily see with a newspaper assignment, but people were very struck by them.

PDN: In general, what kinds of things are you looking for in the photographers you hire?
C.C.: That is pretty assignment-specific. I’m trying to find someone who is going to bring something special to whatever the assignment is. That might mean being kind of different than the assignment because if it’s something that I’m looking for them to make something a little edgier, or if it’s something that’s not very visual, they need to know how to make a quiet picture, and make a quiet picture sing.
I have a tendency to like photographers who are a little more metaphorical and lyrical in the way they shoot. [And] I want to be sure they can work for news outlets: They have strong ethics, can write captions, and things like that.

PDN: Do photographers pitch stories to you?
C.C.: Photographers send me pitches a lot, but it’s hard for me to put [photographers] on assignment for a pitch. It definitely happens, and I tell photographers: Don’t be shy to send me your pitches. There’s a small chance we’ll find a place for them. I encourage photographers to pitch me for Outlook, because it can have more of a personal slant.

PDN: What’s an example of a pitch you’ve run in Outlook?
C.C.: Luján Agusti sent a pitch to [Post DOP] MaryAnne [Golon] and it was her work (“Salva tu Alma”) on Mexican religious syncretism [a fusion of Catholicism and pre-Hispanic spiritualism]. MaryAnne sent it to me and said maybe it would be good for Outlook. We worked with her on the text. [See the Post story here.] When photographers pitch, and we want to get it in Outlook, we’re usually going to want them to write the text as well—it’s short, a few hundred words.

PDN: Besides recommendation from other photographers, how do you find photographers you want to hire for assignments?
C.C.: Jurying contests has been big the last couple years. I ended up with a long list of people I was interested in [hiring] from Magenta Fast Forward. [I also rely on] word of mouth from other photo editors, I look at Women Photograph and other databases for photographers. I also do a lot of my own research. If there’s an area I’m covering, and I haven’t worked with photographers in that area before, I’ll do cold research on the internet. I’m happy to give people a chance. If I’m excited about their work, I want to see what they can do for us.

PDN: How do you use social media to find photographers?
C.C.: Mostly, I would say [I use] Instagram. I don’t go trolling through Instagram looking for photographers, but when people add me, I will look at their accounts. Photographers [also] send me a message through instagram. I don’t know if I’ve hired any photographers I’ve met that way, but I’ve definitely met photographers I like through Instagram, and would hire if the right assignment comes up. With Facebook, it’s more, I try to use that to keep track of where people are located. So that would be my recommendation to photographers, to have where they’re located up to date on Facebook.

PDN: What’s the best way for photographers to get their work in front of you, and get your attention?
C.C.: I would say through email. If they Google me, they can find my contact information pretty quick. [Send] an email that has a link to your website, says where you’re located, and the kind of work you’re interested in doing. if you don’t hear from me right away, don’t be afraid to send me a follow-up.

PDN: If you show interest in a photographer, what’s the best way for that photographer to stay in touch without annoying you?
C.C.: For us in international news, send me updates any time you change locations: [That] is a good way to remind us you’re there. If you’ve started a new project, send it our way. I would say you probably don’t need to reach out more than once a month.

PDN: Is there anything about your job as a photo editor that you wish photographers understood better?
C.C.: So much! I really want photographers to understand that, at least speaking for myself and a lot of photo editors I know: We’re doing everything we can to get your work seen, and to get your work displayed well. We’re your advocates in the newsroom, and we do what we do because we’re passionate about photography, but we’re also passionate about photographers. So just remember that: We’re on your side.

PDN: What parting advice do you have for photographers who want to work for you, and for The Washington Post?
C.C.: Don’t be shy. Reach out, send your work, and try to build a relationship.

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