Uncomfortably Close Portraits of Strangers in ‘70s Pennsylvania

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Photographer Mark Cohen’s intuitive shooting style — holding the camera at arm’s length just a few feet away from his subjects, without looking through the viewfinder — matches the gritty environs of his working-class hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. A selection of the gritty portraits Cohen took during the 1970s are currently on view at Danziger Gallery through June 11.

Walking the coal region’s neighborhoods and practicing on strangers, Cohen developed a quick and bold style, focused on a single part of the body or bizarre detail — torn and dirty undershirts on sloped shoulders; bruised, soft thighs in denim cut-offs; and the too-skinny arms of a kid playing in the street.

From the gallery: “Intrusive but elegant, by turns brutal and sensuous, Cohen’s cropped bodies and faces and the examined texture of skin and clothing reveal a finely tuned aesthetic consistency. Every picture is printed full frame. No subject is observed without purpose. ‘They’re not easy pictures. But I guess that’s why they’re mine,’ says Cohen.”

See a preview of the exhibition in our gallery, and pick up a copy of Cohen’s recently published monograph Frame: A Retrospective, from the University of Texas Press.

©Mark Cohen, courtesy of Danziger Gallery

©Mark Cohen, courtesy of Danziger GalleryHole in Shirt, 197416 x 20 inch gelatin silver print

©Mark Cohen, courtesy of Danziger GalleryBoy and Football, 197416 x 20 inch gelatin silver print

©Mark Cohen, courtesy of Danziger GallerySubway NYC, 197316 x 20 inch gelatin silver print

©Mark Cohen, courtesy of Danziger GalleryTorn Shirt, 201016 x 20 inch gelatin silver print

©Mark Cohen, courtesy of Danziger GalleryCheryl’s, 197416 x 20 inch gelatin silver print

©Mark Cohen, courtesy of Danziger GalleryGirl Flashed with Leaf, 197416 x 20 inch gelatin silver print

©Mark Cohen, courtesy of Danziger GalleryWhite Strap, 197416 x 20 inch gelatin silver print

©Mark Cohen, courtesy of Danziger GalleryUpside-Down Girl, 197416 x 20 inch gelatin silver print

©Mark Cohen, courtesy of Danziger GalleryBubble Gum, 197516 x 20 inch gelatin silver print