Member Spotlight – Deborah Cole

Deborah Cole Deborah Cole won the 2019 NAPfS Photographer of the Year award. To earn this title, the winning photographer must have the highest number of overall points in the club’s monthly digital photography competitions at the end of the year. You can see her winning photos on the NAPfS web site.

1. Tell us about yourself.

I am a veteran of the corporate world having founded and led a most wonderful service business for 35 years.  I was truly blessed to be surrounded by some amazing people who inspired me on a daily basis.  After selling the company to the employees I stayed with them for 8 years then flew the coop to pursue 4 (yes, 4!) passions:  photography, writing, public speaking and travel.  I weave 2 to 4 of these together whenever possible resulting in the best life ever. 

As a part of my transition from corporate to solo work life I completed a Master’s Degree at the Seminary of the Southwest which totally effectively informs every single one of my 4 passions.  One of the small weddings I performed didn’t have a photographer so I stepped in to help!  True double dipping.

2. What is it that interests you most about photography?

As a kid I started shooting with my dad’s old Kodak 6-20 film camera from the 1930’s.  One of my first images ever was of John Wayne on the set of The Alamo.  I shot hundreds if not thousands of photos while my kids were growing up and on family vacations but really got the bug as a landscape photographer in my business life as well as in a new found love of hiking and trekking in the mountains. 

In January, 2018 I gave up landscape photography in a pivotal moment while shooting ice and waterfalls in West Virginia.  In that moment I knew that I was done with landscapes.  This elimination was essential for what was to follow-the discovery of street photography.  In May of 2018 I discovered this genre and was 1000% bitten by the bug.  The lure of the people, the unexpected, the connectedness of me and the subject matter touches me in a way that is difficult to describe.  But it’s there.
3. What kind of of photographs do you like to make?
Although stealth mode street photography initially attracted me, I have begun to interact with my subjects and blend stealth with conversation on the street.
4. What is most rewarding about learning photography?
I have found a pure joy and excitement about the discovery and unexpectedness with my subjects to be the most rewarding in each walkabout.  I never know what I will see or what I will learn.  And I find that this photography is a two way street so to speak. 
The miksang element of this genre really speaks to me (miksang:  a Tibetan word meaning “good eye.”  It represents a form of contemplative photography based on the Dharma Art teachings of Chogyam Trungpa in which the eye is in synchronization with the contemplative mind.)
5. Can you share any tips about your experiences with photography so far?
All of the gear and the technology can be intimidating.  I believe its best to keep things simple and affordable.  As Ansel Adams stated, “The single most important component of a camera is the 12 inches behind it.” 
But if you want to know my whole story, I’ve written a book telling of this journey that comes out January 9, 2020. The book title is Letting Go: How Less Becomes More and there is more information about how you can buy it on my web site

About Clay Leben

I've always loved photography and cameras. Started in high school with darkroom and school newspaper; continued with college yearbook photos. I just keep going; taking photos of events around me for personal pleasure. I love capturing the moment and saving memories as "citizen journalism" storytelling. Like Cronkite used to end the newscast by saying, "And, that's the way it was!"