With the aid of his photography teacher, Colin Combs, a Kettering Fairmont High School student, has seen his work featured by the New Yorker.
The process began when Amy Powell, Combs’ former photography teacher, submitted a small selection of his work and an artist statement to the publication. The response was nothing short of impressed, and they followed up with a request to see more.
“It was shocking and exciting,” said Combs. “It was a bit of a slow process, but when it finally came together, I felt vindicated.”
Combs is known for carrying his camera and photographing frequently, so at their request, the New Yorker received more work -- and lots of it.
“I recognized early on,” said Powell. “He was onto something.”
In total, 45 rolls of film, shot from the time Combs was only 15 years old, were sent to the New Yorker. The magazine developed and scanned hundreds of images. The result is Combs’ perspective of live with friends, collectively artistic and intimate.
His work has been supported not only by his photography teacher, but also a security officer at the school named “Wolfgang,” who offered him 20 rolls of film to shoot. He’s also received rolls of film from co-workers at Christopher’s Restaurant in Kettering.
But photography is not Combs’ only artistic expression. He was recently awarded the Gold Key Award from the Scholastic Art Awards for his sculpture work. He also paints, produces zines, writes poetry and draws.
I had an interview with Combs to talk about inspiration, daily life and his art. Parts of our conversation are included below.
What did your friends think when they saw their photos on the New Yorker?
They were very excited. I’m hoping it helps us get famous.
Have you had any reactions following the feature?
A lot of inquiries for print orders, which is great because I’m broke.
What inspired you to first get into photography?
I’ve been skateboarding since I was about 7; skateboarding and documentation go hand-in-hand. I was interested in how [they] captured themes, environment, people and generally what was happening.
Walk me through a typical day of yours.
Usually when I get out of school, I walk home because I don’t like asking for rides. I usually ‘chef’ up some eggs, and try to get motivated to paint, or do something.
What inspires you to get motivated?
I’m usually always listening to music, but sometimes I’ll put on a certain record that gets me going. Also seeing my friends’ art inspires me to make art.
What camera are you currently shooting with? What’s your dream camera?
Anything that’s cheap or gifted. A friend of mine gave me a Minolta. I also use disposables and point-and-shoots. [My dream camera] would definitely be the Leica M4.
What are your favorite things, places and/or people to photograph?
Skateboarders, people I like. I try to only photograph people I like.
So what’s next for the high school senior? In his own words, his only focus is “to keep making art.” Read the full New Yorker feature here.