Rachel Polinsky '16
Frederick Coulson, various botanical cyanotypes, c.1895
When I first began my research I felt like I could not really get to know Frederick Coulson as an individual. Since he was not a known photographer, there have been no extensive texts about him other than Jim Welu's recently published book. When I began researching I was told that should I check out the Worcester Historical Society, which I did. This turned out to be one of the most helpful and informative things I did while researching.
While the Worcester Historical Society did not have any formal documentation on Coulson as a photographer, they did have some of the blueprints he made as an architectural draftsman. Being able to see his blueprints was incredibly fascinating. I felt like I was finally able to get a better understanding of him as a real person. Some of the blueprints included a series of edits and variations, showing the processes Coulson had taken in making each draft. I noticed he would include small drawings of people here and there depending on the blueprint—I assume they were meant for scale but I found them really entertaining. There was even a draft of a contract attached to one of the blueprints; it was filled with Coulson's scribbled notes and edits. It was really interesting getting to read and look at something like the contract and blueprints of buildings which, at the time, were still in the process of being constructed, yet now exist in completion.
Seeing the blueprints was a way for me to feel closer to Coulson, and I truly felt like I was able to get to know him better by seeing his livelihood. Photography might have been a passion of his, but he was an architectural draftsman by trade. When researching I felt it was important not to simply ignore his career as an architectural draftsman, and I am glad I didn't.