It took three decades, but Carl Cox has finally found his way home — to a successful career doing what he feels most passionate about, and to a community where he feels like he’s “part of something.” That community is downtown Rosendale, where Carl Cox Studios just opened its doors to the public at 378 Main Street a little over a month ago.
“I’ve always had a knack for it,” says Cox of the photography work that he started doing as a hobby in childhood and made into a sideline about 30 years ago, while working in procurement for Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Rockland County. “My co-workers would hire me to photograph their weddings.” Faced with a choice between concentrating on photography and accepting a promotion in the world of Big Pharma, he opted to immerse himself in the corporate world for a while and make sure that his bills got paid. But in 2011 he was laid off, and happily seized that opportunity to throw himself into the work that he loved most.
Based in Pomona, but without a storefront because high rental costs would have priced his work out of the range of affordability, Cox set out to build a business doing family portraits, Lake Tahoe wedding photography and graduations. Although he had a natural eye for composition, he felt that his technical skills needed buffing — especially when it came to shooting the human face and form. “I was very good at product photography, from diamonds to jet planes,” he says, “but diamonds have no attitude. I wanted to improve my people photography.”
So five years ago, Cox set out to learn from masters in the field. He joined the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and spent a full year taking intensive courses in that organization’s schools around the country. By 2014 he had produced two images that he felt confident enough about to submit to PPA’s annual International Print Competition. Both not only received Merit awards (highly unusual for a first-timer competing with master photographers), but were also accepted into the organization’s Loan Collection — the organization’s “highest level of excellence,” according to Cox — and published in a hardcover coffee-table volume of annual selections. “That was exciting,” he says.
By that time, Cox had been introduced to Rosendale by a friend. “Rosendale makes my heart happy!” he writes on his website, https://carlcoxstudios.com. “From the moment I first walked down Main Street in 2013, I knew this was the place for me.” And now he has finally moved to the area and opened his first-ever storefront, building up anticipation by covering the front window with a big poster of a camera, with a small opening cut out where the viewfinder would be. Peering in, passersby would look through a tube at a large screen showing a slideshow of examples of Cox’s work. That’s just one example of his marketing savvy, which comes into play in a big way with his work shooting corporate headshots and business cards, including “e-cards” that link to short videos describing the services offered by the business-owner in both words and images.
The shop itself reflects Main Street Rosendale’s funky style, with samples of antique camera equipment from Cox’s 15-year collection perched on shelves high and low, interspersed with photos ranging from tiny to huge, illustrating the quality and diversity of his work. There’s art photography — highly processed black-and-white images of “ghosts” are a favorite — and there are fairly conventional family portraits along with notably unconventional shots of barefoot brides and high school seniors dressed in mermaid tails or fairy wings. Bins stuffed with props and costumes are stacked to the high ceiling.
Cox reminisces about a favorite childhood photo of himself on a bicycle taken by his father, which he loved because it depicted “what I was actually doing with my life.” His approach to “people photography,” especially the young, reflects a similar wish to capture the interests and imaginations of the subjects: He asks them what they see themselves doing, their “dream location,” and then sets about to make it happen in a series of images. It helps immeasurably that Cox is a friendly, down-to-Earth, affable guy who can quickly put his subjects at ease. “I love the people aspect,” he says. “I’m all about building rapport.”
He has been working that sociability big-time since setting up shop in Rosendale, joining the Rondout Valley Business Association and immediately introducing himself to all his neighboring shopowners. He is making a point of using local suppliers and artisans for all his business needs, such as hiring Howie Slotnick Signs to paint his shop’s hanging shingle. He calls Victoria Coyne of Victoria Gardens a “huge asset”; she has been showing him around and also improving his eye for shooting flowers and plants. He is collecting the stickers in the Rondout Valley Growers’ Association’s Stick to Local Food campaign as a way of meeting area farmers.
The effort has been paying off already: In his first week in town, Cox says, he found two new clients just by making the rounds at the Rosendale Farmers’ Market. “Since I got here it’s been wonderfully fast and furious,” he says happily.
Cox doesn’t list prices on his website, but encourages people interested in photo portraits, e-cards or other assistance to come and talk about what they have in mind, saying that his clients are frequently surprised by how affordable his products can be. For an appointment, call Carl Cox Studios at (845) 658-7000, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or just stop by 378 Main Street. To view galleries of his work and learn more about his services, visit https://carlcoxstudios.com.