FRAME: A New Retrospective Collection From Street Photographer Mark Cohen

October 13, 2015 - photo frame

All Images (c) Mark Cohen, Courtesy of University of Texas Press

This is an sparkling post for me. Why? Because I’ve had a duplicate of Mark Cohen’s FRAME on my table for scarcely dual months, yet had my hands tied by a publisher not to write about it. Well, I’m happy to news that is now over and we can let lax on this smashing retrospective collection from a loyal master of travel photography – Mark Cohen.

Mark Cohen not customarily helped to conclude complicated travel photography, he was also one of a organisation of photographers who ushered in tone photography and a acceptance of it as an art, not merely customarily a film for your grandmother to use during a birthday party. 35mm film for still photography didn’t unequivocally get renouned until about 1925, with a appearance of a Leica camera. When one takes this into consideration, along with a acceptance of a thought that 35mm film unequivocally was a takeoff indicate for what we competence call travel photography, it is unequivocally no warn that people like Cohen and others of his era were a ones to particularly pull bounds in new directions. Simply put, Mark Cohen was a male of a hour with 35mm travel photography. Add to this brew some far-reaching angle lenses and a blatant negligence for a viewfinder, and we have a recipe for truly groundbreaking aesthetics in photography – differently famous as a work of Mark Cohen.

It competence demeanour easy to sketch snowflakes, or a few crumbs of bread subsequent to a reservoir (a imitation Cohen considers one of his best) and we consider it is. Now, try to make those photographs iconic. Ah, yes, there is a challenge. The connection of time, middle (and a newness during a time), along with a new proceed to a surprising theme combines to communicate iconic standing here. Today creation a sketch like this is nearby impossible, not customarily given we feel as yet a images are too informed – too tired – yet given new technologies direct new flaw to grasp cultured uniqueness. Those travel photographers perplexing to obey people like Cohen currently clutching to their M3 and a hurl of film are helplessly doomed. Instead, a masters of currently will be a photographers who welcome a stream proceed to design creation (digital and a derivatives) and turn and hook it until something new and secret – different – emerges. That’s how art, good art, is born. The 35mm support of a few crumbs of bread deserted on a path is done. It’s taken. Like a vacant canvass, you’ve missed your chance. This is given there will customarily ever be one Mark Cohen – and one Robert Rauschenberg, in a box of a vacant canvas.


I’ve famous Mark by infrequent association for several years now. He’s a ideally gifted artist and a gentlemen of a top order. When we listened of his new retrospective collection we simply couldn’t assistance yet get my hands on a copy. I’m blissful we did. This book is a decisive Mark Cohen. A dictatorial and good curated (Cohen sequenced a photos himself) collection of over dual hundred and fifty images – both black and white and color. All a iconic photographs are here and many others, some frequency seen, also find their home between these covers. An learned and agreeably internal introduction is supposing by reputable curator and writer, Jane Livingston. The introduction functions ideally to place Cohen’s work within a altogether story of travel photography, as good as to prominence some of his singular contributions to this increasingly renouned form of photography.

One contingency keep in mind when regard Cohen’s work that his resourceful use of flash, blur, and rambling framing, all essential to his vision, were wholly novel during a time. These frequency emulated methods are hackneyed today, if not trite entirely, and that can simply lessen one’s ability to review these photographs in their suitable context – can lessen one’s clarity of astonishment and anomalousness. In precis, both Cohen’s proceed of working, as good as his product, were wholly different to a selected audience. For example, Three Pieces of Bread By Puddle, 1975, is a distinguished design even today, in an age where this sole cultured is no longer bizarre or unfamiliar to scarcely any viewer. But suppose someone looking during this design in 1975? How roughly stupid it contingency have seemed – bits of bread, becloud too! The design is a radical depart in photography not so most for what it depicts, yet for what it doesn’t, and for a idea that a critical artist would put this sketch brazen in any kind of critical way. Cohen was not creation a matter so most with what he was showing, a crumbs of bread – a puddle, yet with his blatant negligence for a detailed model of a time. Out of context a design is okay, engaging maybe, singular – in context a design is iconic, a finish diversion changer. In fact, this sole photograph, we suspect, is a lot some-more critical to a story of photography than we realize. This sketch allows us to replenish a clarity of detailed saying – to reapproach a sketch entirely. No tiny feat.

The earthy book itself is a pleasure to hold. An attractive, yet simple, slipcover (shown) hides a ideally superb engraved black cloth hardbound cover with a tone imitation inlay. Red linen endpapers supplement and additional hold of richness. Oh, and a reproduced hit sheets in a front and behind of a book are a singly special touch. The University of Texas Press went all out for this book and it shows. The volume is good value a unequivocally reasonable $85 cost tag.

Now that we have we sole on a book. Let’s pronounce to a male of a hour himself. Here’s a twin of a review we had with Cohen progressing this summer.

Michael Ernest Sweet: Mark, you’ve certainly done poignant contributions to a genre of travel photography (and photography in general) how does that feel during this time in your life, to know you’ve had such a outrageous impact?

Mark Cohen: It feels unequivocally good to be a famous artist. A photographer. we see pictures, even in newspapers and conform magazines, with heads cut off, and tighten wide-angle cropping, everywhere, and when we initial did this it was seen as unequivocally radical. Visibility took a prolonged time to get, yet we set adult a lot of obstacles in my possess way, unconsciously. Now there seems to be a lot of fabrication of my character or technique and that feels fine too–to be seen and elaborated on in some way.

Michael: Yes, we was going to ask about how we feel to know that your work is so heavily emulated (even copied) by so many others today. Even my own work has been heavily shabby by your approach. Tell me, how did we get started in travel photography?

Mark: My initial change was Cartier-Bresson. we saw his book, The Decisive Moment. Then we went to downtown Wilkes-Barre and done cinema on Public Square. It was where all a buses came into a city and so there were people everywhere and copiousness of amicable activity. It was not like Mexico in 1933, yet we could brew in with life all around and afterwards rise those pictures.


Michael: Why so close, what lead we to this character of photography?

Mark: For an architectural elect we indispensable a 21mm lens and afterwards we took it to a train stop. we saw how tighten we indispensable to be to fill a frame. When we got this tighten a subjects began to react.

Also, during this time, 1972 or 1973, we started to carry, trustworthy to a camera, a tiny peep section that we could use to elaborate a stage with thespian lighting effects. The peep also enabled me to work even some-more fast given a combined immediate peep of light effectively done a bearing 1/1000th of a second during f16 so that all was pointy and splendid in a partial of a support that was pivotal to a picture. we didn’t have to stop relocating to take a picture. A motion of intrusion, theater, and regard began to fuse with these negatives.

Michael: Have we ever wanted to behind up, to make photographs with wider views, some-more “classic” images one competence say?

Mark: After a integrate of years with a 21mm lens we saw that a intrusions into people’s spaces was too frequent, and so we switched to a 28mm lens. This was a lot some-more comfortable. we had to learn to keep a camera turn with these lenses given of a farfetched distortions they done when they were tipped. we did it right. we did it all 5 mins from my house. we had no genuine bargain of Madrid, yet we went there and done pictures, and they are cold cinema yet there is a internal indelibility and law about a Wilkes-Barre and Scranton pictures. Some are already classics.


Michael: Mark, are we still sharpened on a streets?

Mark: Yes. we changed to Philadelphia and we am perplexing to learn how to work here. It is an forever bigger place. we need to repair adult a small domain to work in. It is unequivocally difficult. Some unequivocally severe sections. we have been here about dual years and now consider we wish to make an vaunt of a new pictures–which have been mostly done during a good distances compulsory with a 50mm lens. There is no devise to my work and there is even in my possess mind an deficient bargain of what we am doing and what travel photography indeed is. we consider it harbors an relate of surrealism in a accidentalness. we frequency demeanour by a viewfinder.

Michael: Did we ever ask accede or “choreograph” any of your travel photographs, or are they all truly candid?

Mark: Most, 99% are truly candid, yet if we am unequivocally close, we competence ask a deflecting question, like “can we get a design of your ring?” Do it unequivocally fast–never put a camera to my eye, and have a ring as a estimate core of this secret movement of design elements; buttons, windows, collars, necks, write poles, etc., to be detected in a darkroom.


Michael: we totally know that approach, I’ve worked that proceed myself utterly often. It’s a good middle-ground proceed to fending off conflict. Have we ever had any poignant altercations with strangers during a other finish of a lens? Anything physical?

Mark: we have been pushed and shoved and screamed during yet zero serious. we am always wakeful of a corner and who to positively avoid. we know we am operative though credentials, and unequivocally tighten to an advance of privacy, even in such a open space as a street, yet we am customarily means to defuse a conditions by explaining that it “is customarily my hobby.”

Michael: Recent times have seen an blast in travel photography, do we consider a genre is in for a radical change with a iPhone generation?

Mark: we never attempted to demeanour by an iPhone. It is tough to suppose a camera that is easier to see by a finder of than a Leica M-3. It fits in your palm during a finish of your arm in a unequivocally healthy proceed so as to position it ideally and quickly. The digital images done by a millions any notation mostly never get printed. The selfies and grandchildren seem on a camera/phone screens. No one creates an album, or a portfolio of prints. A slim laptop is a complicated way. It’s all in a cloud-servers everywhere blazing plateau of spark to keep it all sorted. It competence be that a gait of travel photography needs film. It is unequivocally flattering easy to develop, afterwards discover, a hurl of film and make a china print. Make an object. But we customarily saw a new “film” Tangerine, done on a streets of Los Angeles, in a superb and giveaway candid, insinuate way, done with an iPhone 5. That competence pierce a French new call dual stairs forward, so a destiny of travel photography is different in a face of these new techniques.


Michael: Finally, you’re also a singular bird in a travel photography genre given you’re famous as most for your tone photographs as we are for your monochromes. Was a tone photography simply a product of a times, or were we operative some-more deliberately with a pierce to color?

Mark: we had a blurb imitation studio so we was always regulating tone film. In about 1974 Kodak invented a 35mm ASA 400 speed film and this was a same speed as Tri-x so we could use it in a travel in exactly, f-stop for f-stop, a same way. we shot a few rolls like this and afterwards in 1976 a George Eastman House upheld a plan where we shot this new film for a whole year. Then we went behind to black and white until 1987 when Fuji done a 1600 ASA speed disastrous film and we did another prolonged array of negatives and prints with that film. My work was unequivocally counsel in both black and white and tone yet a tone pictures, that are unequivocally strong, were not seen until 2006, and took on an combined stress when a portfolio of 30 tone send prints was produced.


Michael: Mark, appreciate we so pleasantly for your time and this judicious interview. It’s always a pleasure to pronounce with you.

Mark: Thank you, Michael. we am unequivocally happy to have this possibility to pronounce about my work and this new book from The University of Texas Press.

Mark Cohen started holding photographs when he was about 12 or 13. He’s been during it flattering most ever since. His photography is in many vital collections, including MoMA and a Whitney. He has published 3 prior booksGrim Street, True Color, and Dark Knees. Mark Cohen lives in Philadelphia.

Michael Ernest Sweet is a Canadian New York City-based author and photographer. He is a author of dual photography monographs, The Human Fragment and Michael Sweet’s Coney Island, as good as some-more than one hundred articles, interviews and essays. Learn some-more during his website.

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