Ten’s To See: ‘Just Outside’ by Mark Cohen at Leica Gallery London
‘Leopard Collar’ by Mark Cohen (1974)
Born in 1943 in Pennsylvania, Mark Cohen has been called intrusive, invasive, audacious, even trespassing in the intimate proximity he seeks with a stranger on the street. Devoted to a Leica camera since he was 15, he is a fitting figure for brand’s gallery to spotlight, with a concise exhibition entitled Just Outside dedicated to some of the photographer’s most recognisable work, running until September 1st.
Mark Cohen is a street photographer in the most direct sense: his photos are of people he has never never met before, never talked to, and never spent longer than a few seconds with. He often carries his camera close to his hip set with a small flash unit, resulting in illuminated shots of unaware knees, of legs, of chest. We read interactions of the everyman in their day to day lives not from the face, but the somewhat abstract angles Cohen has snapped in the blink of an eye. The details of these immediate images are often mesmerising.
He is comfortable to admit a tremendous amount of his work relies on chance. You could call them happy accidents, or even luck – there is no set up, no pre-meditation. and that is exactly what makes Cohen’s work so exciting. Through this shoot-and-run, confrontational style, we near trespass into people’s lives, with the majority of the images on show shot in his hometown Wilkes-Barre. The photographer believes that to create an intense body of work you had to immerse yourself into a place, which the exhibition’s curator Lou Proud, associates with the near psychological nuances attached to the pictures.
While it has been noted that there is a keen vulnerability displayed in his subjects, as evident in Woman with Red Lips, Smoking (1975) or Leopard Collar (1974), other shots display a confidence in the subjects, such as Boy in Yellow Shirt Smoking (1976), or Upside Down Girl (1974). In Young Limbs (1981) we experience the fleeting innocence of summertime youth – a thread running through many of his works.
As mentioned the exhibition is wrapping up soon and is therefore one to add onto your list of last-minute summer activities, especially with Cohen’s photography so rarely seen outside the US. Believing it to be the purest form of photography – “street photography is the coolest thing,” he mused – from the images on show, we are inclined to agree.
‘Just Outside’ by Mark Cohen runs until September 1st at the Leica Gallery London, W1K 6JD. Admission free.
‘Boy In Yellow Shirt Smoking’ by Mark Cohen (1976)
‘Upside Down Girl’ by Mark Cohen (1974)
‘Young Limbs’ by Mark Cohen (1981)