My favorite things: Daniel Coston


April 28, 2024

View from morrow mountain

by Whitley Adkins

Daniel Coston is perhaps best known to SouthPark readers for his photos capturing the city’s events and galas in our Swirl section. But Daniel’s greatest passion is photographing North Carolina’s music scene. Since he moved to Charlotte in 1983, he’s photographed everyone from Johnny Cash and The Avett Brothers to Wilco and The Beach Boys. Daniel, who is originally from upstate New York, is also a music producer, historian and the author of six books, with two more in the works. 

“I am sort of a jack of all trades. I grew up thinking I would be a filmmaker or working in television. Along the way I realized I was a writer who also should be a photographer… I’ve never drawn lines on myself along the way.” 

Still, Daniel finds joy in social photography. “Being an event photographer really showed me who was making good things happen in Charlotte. You learn quickly these people are not only fun to be around, but they are doing good things in our community.” Notable events he looks forward to each year include The Heart Ball, Bella Notte, the Bechtler Gala, and the Good Fellows and Good Friends luncheons. 

He cites former Charlotte Observer social editor Olivia Fortson as an inspiration. “To this day, I am shooting for Olivia, even if she is not my editor. It is the way Olivia carried herself and presented Charlotte every day. I learned a lot from Olivia”

Comments are edited for length and clarity.


I really like The Evening Muse. Joe Kuhlmann, the owner, has worked really hard to make that venue so special. I’ve seen so many amazing shows there over the last 20-plus years.  


Left: Daniel Coston. Right: The Dunhill. Photograph courtesy The Dunhill.

If you get to explore The Dunhill, there’s a lot of interesting 1920s architecture there. A few other hotels that I’ve worked in are the Westin, the Marriott (Center City) and the Ritz-Carlton. These venues were not here when I started in Charlotte, and I’m very thankful they are here now. It’s helped the growth of Charlotte’s social scene by giving nonprofits and organizations a regular home to hold their events. When I started in the ’90s, you were either at the convention center or in somebody’s house. 


Photographs by Daniel Coston

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the various Carolina Panthers players through the years. I photographed several of Cam Newton’s Thanksgiving events, which were always fun. And Scott Avett — I’ve known Scott for close to 25 years now.  


Lupie’s Café is always a good time. I’ve spent many an afternoon at that place. I usually do a BLT with pimento cheese. There’s been a lot of change in Charlotte, and a lot of the places where I used to hang out are no longer around. I’m really glad that Lupie’s is still there — it’s comfort food on different levels.


As a music photographer, I’ve had a lot of fun in recording studios around Charlotte. I love working at Old House Studio, Sioux Sioux Studio and other smaller studios. I still feel like a kid having fun documenting and watching music being created.


Deep on the west side of Mecklenburg County, WBT’s original radio tower from the 1920s is hiding in plain sight. They are very protective of it — it is surrounded by fencing, and it’s very hard to get to. But when I look at that tower, I am amazed by all the history that has been broadcast from that tower and how far Charlotte has come in 100 years. 


The Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock, because I love the back-to-nature feel of that area. Sandburg’s brother-in-law, Edward Steichen, was one of my favorite photographers. I love taking a walk in his footsteps. Also, Morrow Mountain State Park near Albemarle for its diverse amount of scenic overlooks, water views and a good place to explore. 


Mitchell Kearney, who photographed the music scene in New York in the ’70s before moving to Charlotte. Also Don Sturkey, who was the Observer’s photographer for 40 years. Whenever I grow up, I still want to be Don Sturkey.  SP

Featured image: View from Morrow Mountain.

Brushes with celebrities

Gwyneth Paltrow “I did happen to photograph her at Center City Music Fest when she attended a music festival during the 2001 filming of Shallow Hal. Gwyneth showed up at a concert for Duncan Sheik. She went to see the show and proceeded to sit alongside the stage and sang along to Duncan’s cover of Radiohead’s ‘Fake Plastic Trees.’” Johnny Cash “In the summer of 2003, I was asked by the Carter family to photograph what would be the first tribute show he did to his wife, June Carter Cash, a month after she passed away. To this day, those experiences feel like a dream.” Aretha Franklin “I was photographing Aretha Franklin at the McGlohon Theatre three days after Whitney Houston passed away. She did a 10-minute tribute to Whitney during the show. It got very real, and very gospel.”  SP


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