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Business Alabama Photographer Lands National Prize

Photographer Matthew Coughlin, a frequent contributor to Business Alabama, has earned a coveted national prize from Communication Arts. His photo of Matt Randall holding a black bullhead catfish at Southern Fish & Oyster — taken for a May 2014 Business Alabama feature on the iconic Mobile waterfront business — was chosen for the Communication Arts Annual.

Professionals turn to the Annuals for inspiration and to make contact with top-flight talent in other markets.

Once a designer friend convinced him to enter the competition, the hard part was selecting which image from the past year was his best option. The two reviewed portfolios looking for the picture that could best stand on its own and tell its own story.

“I was on the fence about submitting this image, because it’s so basic,” Coughlin says. “But my designer friend said it was the strongest. He thought the composition and artistic value were very strong.”

Picking just one of your images is tough, he says. “Every image has a story and you have personal pride in it, but you have to separate yourself. The image has to stand alone, speak for itself. Not picking one is like telling some of your children they can’t go to Disneyworld with the family.”

And his children are as fundamental to his career as his camera. In 2010, he bought himself an SLR camera and launched a project to take new pictures every day of his children — Zachary now 9, Madison, 7 and Mackenzie nearly 3. Always good at the technical aspect of photography, he now concentrated on the artistic side.

By 2011, he had never been paid to take a picture.

But he submitted his portfolio to an agency, hoping just to get feedback. Instead, he got an assignment for Flight Journal magazine.

“I got a double truck, and when I saw my work and my name there, I was hooked.”

Not long after, Business Alabama hired him for a photo shoot of Mobile attorney George “Skip” Finkbohner, which landed Coughlin’s work on the magazine cover.

He’s now shot for Sports Illustrated, Money Magazine, Outdoor Life, Dr. Oz Good Life and several law magazines, as well as repeated assignments for Business Alabama and sister publication Mobile Bay Magazine.

“I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur,” Coughlin says. “I just like to create good-looking things.”

Moreover, he was raised to believe that you can be whatever you want to be — a lesson he wanted to pass on to his children.

“But I know I’ve got to keep creating and learning and growing or some 20-year-old kid will come up behind me and take better pictures.”

Coughlin lives in Pensacola.

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