Cotton Coulson Dies

05 June 2015

Cotton Coulson, a beloved photographer and filmmaker and Sony Global Imaging Ambassador, leaves behind a long legacy of incredible work.  Cotton sadly died after losing consciousness while scuba diving off the coast of Norway last Wednesday, May 27. He was 63.

Cotton fully experienced the places where he photographed. He often returned from trips with new items for his wardrobe or mannerism from the locations. His life was spent doing what he loved.  As a dedicated conservationist and environmental advocate, he immersed himself deeply into stories that needed attention and worked steadfastly to bring it to a global audience with meaning and personal resonance.   

His wife, Sisse Brimberg, who he met at a National Geographic photography seminar many years ago, quickly became a career partner as well and the two worked and traveled together for most of their 30-year marriage. “Everyday we wake up and try to capture the world around us in a new and unique way. We love the process of using photography to interpret what we experience and sharing our work with others.”

The remains from the old Norwegian whaling station in Stromness, South Georgia. Littered on the ground are the props from the whaling vessels.

The remains from the old Norwegian whaling station in Stromness, South Georgia. Littered on the ground are the props from the whaling vessels.

One of their long-term projects, Remains, focused on the impact humans have on our environment.  The resulting series is quiet and contemplative, asking the viewer to consider the aesthetic qualities of the deteriorating objects in front of them, while also asking wider questions about history, purpose, and permanence in our habitat.  You can view two parts of their ongoing series here: Part 1. Part 2.

Cotton and Sisse also started their own media company, KEENPRESS, which focused on the production of photo and film on our environment, climate science and international travel.  Sisse remains an ambassador and our thoughts our with her and her family during this most difficult time. 

In addition to Sisse, Cotton is survived by their adult children, his parents, two sisters and three brothers. He will be dearly missed.

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Abandoned whale oil storage tanks are standing markers from a time when the whaling industy was at its prime in the early 20th century.

Further Reading

Cotton’s career:  

Best known for his work for National Geographic, Coulson photographed more than 40 stories for the publication and spent most of his career in Europe. Cotton won numerous accolades throughout his career, including awards from the National Press Photographers Association and the White House Press Photographers Association.

Coulson’s dive was part of a 17-day National Geographic expedition to Norway’s Fjords and Arctic Svalbard archipelago. It was a trip he had done many times. Coulson was taking underwater photographs for the guests of the expedition when he began to ascend and lost consciousness. When he reached the surface, Coulson was rushed back to the ship then transported to a local hospital. He was flown by helicopter to the University of Northern Norway hospital in Tromsø, Norway. He died surrounded by his family on Wednesday evening.

For more on Cotton and Sisse visit their webpage here