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Dylan Coulter, born in Oregon and based in Brooklyn, counts among his ever-growing client list a diverse group, from the Financial Times and Golf Digest to The New Yorker,Southern Comfort, Time Magazine, and many more. While grateful for the challenges and subjects within the commercial arena, he knows “how important it is to push yourself in new directions as well.”

With a strong belief that all he does is at some level connected, Coulter regularly takes on personal projects, long-term and short-term, some in rural or out-of-the way locations: such as Eastern Iowa, Marrakesh, Taos, and a skateboard park in Donald, Oregon. Having grown up skating in Oregon, and knowing that the state of Washington legally sells fireworks of all kinds, Coulter headed to home territory to shoot “Pyro,” ready to let intuition and circumstance lead”.

He explains, “There was no deep concept. I would be combining people in motion with fireworks displays.” Finding three skaters who were game to be in the shoot, Coulter bought $300 worth of fireworks, sold in the warehouses across the bridge in Vancouver, Washington. “I was excited about the possibility of using smoke. There were some pretty big fireworks, some Roman mortars but nothing industrial.

”His intention had been that skateboarding would play a large part in the shots, but things didn’t develop that way: “The shoot took on a life of its own.” The images tell the story. Frozen in time in a small skateboard park– that is actually internationally known– the strangeness, daring, and madcap quality of the action might well be freeze frames from cinema, or non-sequential parts of an untold longer story or fantasy. The lab coats the skaters wore were actually thin, ripped painters’ suits held together with tape. Both mad scientists and the Wizard of Oz came to my mind, but when Coulter told me The Beastie Boys had inspired him, I wasn’t surprised.

“By the end of the day,” Coulter said, “The guys were jumping over lots of fireworks. There was a fearlessness and total playfulness about it all. I didn’t want to constrain them.” Pyro’s unexpected colors; suited-up skaters jumping to clear explosions; and human forms half-transmuted into pastel cloudlike shapes, create a surreal, other-worldly atmosphere where semi-celestial beings exist. Go with it, let your senses play, hear, feel, and imbide its spirit. That’s what liberating personal projects are for.


Photographer: Dylan Coulter
Mary Ann Lynch

Photo Editor: Jesse Dreyfus