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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Designer Spotlight Sunday: Photographer Charles Cohen


I really get inspired by a photographer whose work pushes the boundaries to create images that are emotional, edgy, cognizant and original. My good friend from high school, Charles Cohen is one of these photographers who has stamped his own innovative imprint on the landscape of photography. His work applies abstraction to ordinary subjects and provokes the viewer to complete the meaning of his work. My FAVE is his 'Analog Time' series where a ghostly silhouette contrasts with its background. When looking at it, I realized that the silhouette is not literal. It forced me to want to know who the 'cut-out' is and why it is desired? So cool when Art can create intangible pockets or spaces where you, the viewer becomes the participant to the work.  Read on, and learn more about Charles Cohen's unique and mesmeric work.
How long have you been taking photos and how old were you when you first realized you loved photography?
It feels like I’ve been using a camera since the beginning of time, but I do distinctly remember getting a kodak instamatic as a gift when I was much shorter than my subjects.
How would you describe your photographic style?
I use the words abstract and conceptual, probably more liberally than is correct, to describe my work. To be more precise, I say that I look at subjects that you would not normally consider abstract or profound in an abstract and thought provoking way—a point of view that is accessible and often overlooked.

His 'About Face' series depict abstraction and abstract thought as a point of view. Charles says, "these images of bottles in profile' void familiar context, the product's identity and it's original purpose (usually to clean or lubricate in some fashion) inorder to promote the overlooked form and color all by means of a point of view."

Can you describe your creative process which involves video, digital imaging and sculpture?

Generally, the message dictates the form and therefore process, but pieces tend to evolve quickly. The inspiration comes from a fleeting experience followed by a descriptive note-to-self. It’s easy to get satisfied with just the words on a scrap of paper (I have a massive backlog), but an idea only comes to life by means of an audience. The medium generally doesn’t change from an original vision. I choose photography, digital imaging, video and mechanically produced sculpture because of the democratic nature of the products—each copy is just as much an original as the next. It feels very honest to communicate to an audience in this way, even though, not so strangely, these media, because of their ‘transparency’, are at the forefront of deceptive practices.

 'Standard Double' is a complelling series where stills are extracted from a five minute video. The piece shows moments from television shows where he frames the unexpected appearance of a character's twin. Charles wanted to reveal, " what it would be like to meet yourself?"



In his Analog Time images 'Why I Prefer Digital Clocks and Can No Longer Pretend to Like Analog Time,'  Charles says, " Despite the indication of any weakness on my part, I love Digital, I love her."




How did the signature silhouette come about and how does this idea provoke the viewer?

The use of the silhouette, in my Buff series, came about from looking at a porn image attached to an email. I was more disturbed by the random things going on “off set” that were left there without regard to the product or me, the audience. I was clearly supposed to look only at the naughty bits and not the picture as a whole. I simply inverted the subject to subvert the image. Suddenly, in this experiment, I realized other levels of meaning were exposed—ultimately how the viewer completes the circuit by co-authoring the meaning. Below are pictures from his provocative 'Buff Series'.


Where do you typically draw inspiration from?
Typically, inspiration comes from participating in the banal: watching television, going to the grocery store, taking out the trash, walking down the street, and most certainly, doing these things while traveling. It’s about finding that tiny wedge in the facade of normalcy and suddenly seeing that which we project as empty and full of potential.
What photograph are you most proud of and why?



That’s a great question for me. Great because it’s hard to say and I tend to avoid favorites in general, but I think that a break through image of mine was one of a McDonalds sign taken from the side or as I have called it, the Profile. Merely by changing a point of view, literally, all that was intended for and expected of this sign was rendered nil to make way for interpretation. I am more after the feeling of potential than I am of dictating a narrative about something. The moment of inspiration is feeling nothingness and “everythingness” (oneness, perhaps) at the same time. I always wanted to take a picture of nothing and for me, in this image, there it was.

I love the ' THAT' ! These pictures make you wonder and force a dialogue with oneself. Thank you so much Charles for the interview, your art is extremely provoking!

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