Intern Anna gets inspired by Photographer, Alan Cohen’s NOW series

In my time interning at the Gregg Museum, I have had the privilege of photographing many objects and pieces of art that are a part of the collection. I have seen many textiles, ceramics, and paintings, but my favorite pieces that I have worked with so far have been the series of photographs by Alan Cohen.

Alan Cohen received his undergraduate degree in Nuclear Engineering here at NC State University and after beginning a doctoral program in thermodynamics at Northwestern University, he began to develop his interest in photography in 1969. He went on to study Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design and received his Masters of Science in Photography in 1972. From 1987 until 2012, he was a professor at School of the Art Institute of Chicago and currently, he is a visiting faculty member of Colombia College at Chicago’s Department of Photography.

A particular series of Cohen’s that I have looked through is called NOW. In this series he documents the scenes where tragic events have happened and shows what is there now. Through this series, he breaks down the barriers of the present and the past.

In each of his photographs, Alan Cohen captures images that show details that may not have been noticed otherwise. His framing of the photograph is key in that he focuses in on a specific detail. This highlights things that would not have been seen beforehand, he brings a new light to the places that he documents.

Pictured below is a photograph from the NOW series, taken in 1994. This was the site of a Nazi Death Camp in Auschwitz, Poland. I see a barrier in this photo that clearly distinguished the right from the left side, but I also think that this separation is what makes me realize that what is on each side is the same. I think this is a very important photo in light of all that happened throughout the Holocaust. Photographs like this by Alan Cohen inspire me as a photographer to look deeply at what I am photographing and make conscious decisions about what I choose to focus in on and capture.

Gelatin silver print by Alan Cohen, 1994,  NOW (Auschwitz/Poland) Gift of Sharon A. Cohen, Gregg Museum of Art & Design permanent collection 2007.016.001

Gelatin silver print by Alan Cohen, 1994, NOW (Auschwitz/Poland)
Gift of Sharon A. Cohen, Gregg Museum of Art & Design permanent collection 2007.016.001

-Anna Mathis, Gregg Museum Intern Spring 2014


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