There are moments in our lives that are so bathed in beauty that in later years the memory is swathed in a sparkling romantic mist, a golden glow. This memory is an epitome of our best time, a rare occurrence, an internal visual snapshot that stays with us until the end. These are the photographs of Roeg Cohen. It is as if each photograph contained the intimate perspective of many lovers across the globe. Lovers of skin, salt sea, fresh air, hair whipping in the wind. His work embodies the exquisite shared experience that the human existence is compiled of. Within his photographs are the endless days of summer, and wild horses crossing never ending open plains.
I’d love it if you could give our readers a look into what your childhood and artistic development was like. When did you notice your natural artistic proclivity?
I recall getting lost in my Mom’s record and book collections. I would have to think that, that contributed to my imagination and creativity…or its possible my imagination led me to those things, and that they fed my future creativity.
I made drawings and paintings like most children, but I first started to express myself with writing in my early teens. I found myself always hiding the meaning in the subtext (although I didn’t know it at the time). In that regard it makes sense that I eventually chose a medium with less literal interpretation.
I don’t think I ever felt a natural proclivity for making art. I’ve worked really hard to express myself authentically. With a lot of trial and error, and checking in on my intentions, I’ve gotten to a place where I have some confidence in my process…and that it’s always in flux.
Many of your photographs are very intimate; each portrait could be of a lover. You catch women looking their most natural. How do you manage to capture such personal images?
I hope all my images have that feeling…even the ones of horses.
I think its a matter of being in comfortable environment, and feeling safe and open. You know, because we’ve worked together, that I talk a lot while I’m shooting. That’s mostly because it settles my nerves. I think the byproduct of me being open, and not bringing my ego into to the room, is that the subject is able to be open as well. I never want someone to be anything other then themselves. In the end, its the pictures I select what people see. The ones that feel intimate and personal are the ones I respond to.
You have a fascination with horses, but are there any other animals, objects, or visuals you find yourself really drawn to? And when did the horse/female portrait diptych idea begin?
That’s a good question…I always get asked “why horses?” I love animals, and I have an affinity with many different kinds. Elephants, dogs, platypus…the list is long; But it’s horses that I go on treasure hunt road trips for…
Most recently I’ve been photographing water a lot. I live a couple of blocks from the East River, and I’ll go down around sunset and take pictures. There’s something about the images that I respond to. I did realize a couple of months into doing it, that they related to a metaphor of open water to described the grief of losing my mother that I had come up with when trying to make sense of the loss. Some of my water pictures have the feeling I had been described, but it wasn’t my intent when I was taking them. Like everything I shoot, I’m looking for a vessel in which I recognize a feeling that I can’t express with words.
The Diptychs happened organically. I was editing images of a girl, and I recognized something compositionally similar to an image of a horse I had taken. Serendipity has to be in play for it to work.
There is a warm glimmer and radiance that seems to grace some of your work. What cameras and processes lend themselves best to fulfill your vision? Are your shots planned or happenstance?
I mostly shoot film, and Polaroid. I like things in a way that isn’t how we see them with our eyes; something other than real. I’m more than okay with images being technically imperfect, or having organic defects. It adds atmosphere, and gives feeling, the same way the sound of a needle on vinyl does.
I don’t plan things or use concepts. I like things to be very loose, and to not feel contrived.
You’re an avid traveler, but still retain residence in Brooklyn, New York. Do you suffer from wanderlust often? Is New York the stuff that dreams are made of?
New York is like a dysfunctional relationship. I’ve been wanting to move for at least 5 of the 12 years I’ve lived here. I crave to be somewhere with lot’s of sky, and less people, but I can’t seem to leave. The concentration of creative people is what’s kept me here.
I travel a lot for work, but when I get to travel for myself, I usually fly somewhere, rent a car, and drive into the middle of nowhere and look for horses to take pictures of. That’s when I’m the happiest.