Pete Follansbee: English Teacher & Photographer

By Matt Kollmansperger

Follansbee on Halloween 2015. Photo credit: Vlastik Svab.

Pete Follansbee has been an English teacher in the Upper School for 23 years and is easily recognized on campus. Be it his exuberant personality, stunning fashion selections, or engaging English courses, one way or another everyone has had some form of run-in with “Pistol Pete.” On holidays, Follansbee is known to sport a seasonal tie and similarly-colored pants.

He is also known for how he dives so deeply into a book and brings his students along to break down every word and metaphor to decipher the underlying meaning of a passage.  Ellis Henderson (‘19) says “Mr. Follansbee has one of the most authentic teaching styles I’ve seen at Collegiate.” On top of this, he is known for his leadership in The Flame, being a published poet as well as a proud grandfather.


Broad Street in traffic. Photo credit: Pete Follansbee.

One may wonder how he could pack any more excitement into his already eclectic lifestyle, and yet there is still another side of Follansbee that lies undiscovered: English-teacher-turned-nature photographer. Follansbee was always a photographer while his kids were growing up, but within the last four years has become a “more serious amateur photographer,” as Follansbee described himself. “I am always an amateur,” he says. He began with two nicer cameras but quickly dropped them for the new iPhone 7 plus, with its state-of-the-art cameras already built in. He said “the phones began to fit my life,” and he soon found himself having more opportunities for his hobby.

Follansbee described his morning schedule: “I get up early to go to the ACAC and exercise in the morning, and so I began to be up for sunrises and sunsets… I try to fit these pictures into my routine.” Follansbee said he most often finds himself photographing “trees and nature stuff, but also any odd kind of thing that I deem somewhat artistic.” He looks for art in everyday occurrences and routine.

Sunset through the app Prisma. Photo credit: Pete Follansbee.

Follansbee initially enjoyed this as just a side hobby but has looked for a way to embrace photography even more. “I converted to Instagram because I found that world more interesting,” he says, “People still do parties and people still do group pictures at parties, but also I found that people in their own way try to be a little artistic.” And so Follansbee started to develop his social media presence: “I post it to Instagram, but I also post it to facebook at the same time. I find they are different audiences.” He described how his generation is moving more into Instagram and creating a mixed audience for the app. Follansbee said that “there are some sunrise-type pictures, some pictures of nature” on his page. He says sometimes the best pictures are not necessarily intentional: “That’s whats wonderful about this, is the accidents that happen.” One such accident he described was a landscape shot where three cyclists happened to be riding across the frame. The product is a very symmetrical and candid shot that Follansbee is quite proud of.

“My wife and I traveled cross-country on Interstate Route 10 this summer, starting in the Jacksonville [FL] area, and driving ultimately to Los Angeles and ending here, on Santa Monica beach, where I took this bicycle pic. ” —Pete Follansbee.

Follansbee said he found this world where people try to express themselves in everyday scenes or ideas very enticing, but also challenging. He said, “I now have a challenge that I have for myself for each day, and that is to take a picture.” He elaborated further by saying “The challenge is how to try to be original, somewhat artistic, because you have a little bit of an audience in mind, and you don’t have much time.” Through this constant flow of photography and posting, he has begun to find art in his daily routines. Follansbee also commented on the continuity of the app that continues as time goes on. “The thing about Instagram is that it represents the flow of time,” Follansbee said. “People will press the heart and say they like it, and then it’s gone, just like time is, but then for a moment, you’ve put something up there.”

Sunrise. Photo credit: Pete Follansbee

Sunset through trees. Photo credit: Pete Follansbee.

The stairwell of ACAC. Photo credit: Pete Follansbee.

Sonic at night. Photo credit: Pete Follansbee.

“Again, using the Prisma app, this is a sunset, or dusk pic, from the 288 bridge crossing from north of The James to the South. ” – Pete Follansbee.


About the author

Matt is a senior at Collegiate and enjoys the outdoors.