Interview: TONE

Dale Coachman is the editor and creator of Scheme Magazine and contributed this interview to The Couch Sessions. Check out his site at

TONE was introduced to photography by his mother’s old boyfriend, but he would only start shooting because of a relationship of his that took a turn for the worst. As bad as this may seem, I think TONE would agree everything happens for a reason and things are now working out for the best. TONE isn’t your average commercial photographer with eighty different cameras and a big time studio, but he shoots because until this point he’s felt his life has been a bit of a waste and from this point on he’s speaking his mind through a lens and consistently being heard not just in New York but worldwide. Another photographer we should all know, TONE.

Dale: When do you remember first picking up a camera?

TONE: The very first time, was probably in the early ‘90s. What happened with me was my mother’s old boyfriend was into photography at one point in his life. It might have actually been (laughs) I’m revealing a lot here, it might have been the mid ’80s and believe it or not I was a teenager. It might have been the mid ‘80’s when I learned the basics, which was f-stop, aperture, and film speed; but I didn’t start shooting then.

When did that actually happen?

I started shooting in 2005.

Wow, three years ago, what brought you back to that full circle, what were you doing before that?

Before the photography I was working at an advertising agency as and IT guy. I was doing that for about seven years. The reason I actually started shooting was because I had a woman in my life that I loved at the time that ended up cheating on me after like six years. I was about to marry her and the whole nine and I didn’t know how to deal with what I was feeling, because I was just feeling betrayed and I had this old camera. For whatever reason I have no idea why I started taking photos around the street at night, like vacant parts of Jersey City and real desolate stuff. I had a friend at the time was a photographer’s assistant who told me that I had a good eye and that I should keep shooting. So I just kept shooting and one thing lead to another, got my first digital camera and started shooting more of that and here I am now.

If you could describe your style in words, how do you think it would read?

Well I would say it’s definitely about simplicity, I don’t like overly produced photos. I typically like simple, spontaneous, and natural filled photos with some kind of warmth in them. I would like to think that’s my style I would like to think it’s energetic as well, so, energetic, colorful, warm, and simple.

Was that a particular style you fell into or one you learned technically?

I have to say in all honesty there’s a lot of people… I get a lot of compliments on my work, which is really nice and everything and then most of the time I still don’t understand (laughs). I’ll be honest with you I really don’t know what I’m doing specifically. I mean I know what I’m doing technically, like if I’m trying to blow out the background of a photo or over saturate, technically stuff like that. But as far as what I’m capturing and how that style translates to other people, I’m not really sure what it is; it’s very instinctual I would say. When I get into produced stuff it’s not as fun for me. I think that’s why I shoot so much nightlife because it’s very spontaneous.

Is that your favorite genre to shoot, nightlife?

It’s the one that I think I have the most unique style in. If you look at my other work its great work but I wouldn’t see someone looking at that photo and saying, oh that’s TONE. But if someone saw my nightlife stuff they’d be like, oh that’s TONE.

Was your stepfather the individual who taught you all the technical facets around photography?

No, he only taught me the three basic principles of light, which are, aperture, shutter speed, and ASA, which is film speed. That was all I learned from him and the rest has been me experimenting a lot… like obsessively (laughs).

To get to where you are today, how often would you say you spend on photography?

I mean it’s up and down; there are times when I would go ten days of straight shooting. My pattern of work is up and down, I get obsessive and I get driven by something specific that will motivate me and I’ll go and I’ll just shoot hard and then I’ll burn out and take a week. It seems like the pattern is ten days and after ten days I start feeling guilty. On an average I would say three days a week for the past two years.

When I look at your photos I’m jealous, because they always make me feel like I missed a really good time. Is that one of the feelings you want to get across to the people who observe your work?

No definitely not, when I’m shooting that stuff I’m actively shooting for interesting moments that are going on, things that have a certain feel. I’m looking for angles, interesting people, and yeah I want to capture the energy but it’s not specifically to make people feel that way (laughs).

What is your camera[s] of choice?
I use a Canon 5B.

Was that the camera you’ve always used or did you upgrade?

The first camera I started out with was the Canon Elon Seven which is a film camera, then I upgraded to the Canon Eos 1V which is their top of the line film camera and then shortly after that I bought the 5D.

Where do you ultimately want to take this photography? Is there a plan or are you just going with the flow?

Very much going with the flow, I shoot some editorial stuff, I shoot behind the scenes stuff for marketing companies and I do shoot weddings every now and I shoot all kinds of things to make money. As far as my career stuff it’s definitely not the type of thing where I know what I want to do. The fashion industry is really shitty to me; the records labels have a habit of screwing photographers and not wanting to pay anything. Shooting for magazines is cool, but you have to know the people and you have to be Mr. Schmoozer and I’m not Mr. Schmoozer at all, I’d rather my work speak for itself but we don’t live in that type of world so. So a lot of the times I’d rather build my own empire and get around the shit and that’s a lot of what New Pop is. It’s like saying fuck that whole system, we’re going to make our own little world and we’ll either do well or fail but I don’t want to conform to this whole little clique thing that’s going on in New York City and the only people that get hired for jobs look cool and know how to talk to everyone.

Check out TONE at The New Pop.