Meet the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and celebrated photographer living in London, Ontario.

Although he hates to admit it, these days BD Colen from London, Ontario mainly photographs his three dachshunds: Webster, Edna and Cookie. But there was a time, he jokes, when he was somebody.

He still is, of course. At 76, he’s just retired (for the most part), but remains a man with a long and impressive list of credentials who moved to London from Cambridge, Mass., in 2016 to be with his wife.

Colen is a former Washington Post and Newsday reporter, Pultizer Prize-winning medical writer, and celebrated photographer. For 19 years, he taught short story writing and his style of documentary filmmaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Colen photographed this scene on June 24, 1968 for the George Washington University student newspaper. “It shows people about to be taken to jail after US Park Police shut down a protest encampment called Resurrection City on the National Mall,” Colen explains. « It was the end of the poor people’s campaign, which MLK had foreseen when he was assassinated two months before. » (BD Colen)
« I spotted this guy – I don’t know who he was – and a kid around the corner from the entertainment stage on Solidarity Day, June 19, 1968. Among the celebrities performing were Peter, Paul and Mary , Pete Seeger, Eartha Kit, » Colen says. (BD Colen)

“The first thing I would tell my students is to always have a camera with them,” Colen recalls. « But the second thing is to remind them that the best camera you have is the one that’s with you. »

While Colen doesn’t photograph in black and white, he converts his digital photos to black and white. It is the color of photography, he said, echoing the words of the late Swiss photographer Robert Frank.

Colen has also written 10 books and traveled the world for his work.

The thing I probably learned more than anything else is just to shut up and listen.– Comics Colen

His career as a journalist, which began at the age of 17, focused largely on medical writing and often on end-of-life issues. His reporting, along with that of his colleague Kathleen Kerry, won Newsday the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in the 1980s.

“The thing I probably learned more than anything else is just to shut up and listen,” Colen said. « Let people do the talking. They tend to give you much better interviews, conversations that way, and then approach them with what amounts to a list of questions. »

Metro project

« For 13 years in my previous life, and in fact the two years I commuted from here to Cambridge … I was photographing people on the subway in Boston, » said Colen, who is interested in « the isolation of individuals in crowds. »

The result is a collection of photographs entitled « Alone, Together » – eight of the images from the series have just been selected to appear at the first International Festival of Photography and Street Art in Milan and will hang at the Galleria gli Eroici Furori in October.

For 13 years, Colen photographed people in the Boston subway, in a series called « Alone, Together ». Colen recently submitted eight of these images to the first International Festival of Photography and Street Art in Milan. Eight of them have been selected and will be at the Galleria gli Eroici Furori in October. (BD Colen)
Another of Colen’s photos from his « Alone, Together » series. (BD Colen)
Colen also photographed himself as part of his « Alone, Together » project. (BD Colen)

The day of our life

Later in his career, Colen ran a business off the side of his office, photographing and documenting families. He spent a whole day with them, from the moment they got up in the morning until they went to bed at night.


Later in his career, Colen would photograph families from waking up to going to bed at night. He called the project « A day in our life ». (BD Colen)
Edna, one of Colen’s three dogs, is pictured with a girl in pajamas. (BD Colen)

« It’s those times that you don’t plan for that are the good times, » he said. « You don’t see those moments happen as an observer, me. It’s kind of like being, and that’s what I love about it, is being an anthropologist. »

He said it takes families about 30 minutes to ignore you, and the disappearance is his greatest achievement as a photographer.

Colen recently photographed people enjoying the Western Fair in London, Ontario. (BD Colen)

Offer a workshop this weekend

Colen will be taking part in the Bayfield Fall Foto Festival this weekend, which kicks off Friday night at the Community Center with a talk by Canadian landscape photographer Robert Burley.

Colen will be holding a workshop starting at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon at the Goderich Library. As part of this, he will send participants out into the streets to photograph strangers, « without asking permission and without engaging with them. »

« Most people are – terrified is not too strong a word – of taking pictures of strangers and photographing in public, » he said.

« [Colen] brings immediate authority and expertise to a subject, street photography, which to most people is at best awkward and at worst intimidating,” said Jack Pal, founding president of the Photography Club of Bayfield.

« His approach is very simple and in addition to teaching street photography, he slips in a whole new appreciation for black and white photography, » he said. « He brings his message in a very assertive way and people will come back from his studio with new creative ideas. »

Colen is shown the day after the 1963 March on Washington, which he covered for a Connecticut weekly. (BD Colen)


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