We live in a society that acts as a cult of celebrity, elevating often undeserving heroes to mythical status. Swarms of paparazzi photographers follow today’s celebrities’ every move, attempting to catch them acting “non-mythical”, so the cult can destroy them as fast as their stardom has been created.
Society’s celebrity trainwrecks are both created and destroyed through the lens of the camera.
We often forget that deserving heroes, those who have shared an art, a sport, or some other element of human excellance, actually do exist.
The photography of John Cohen reminds us that true heroes of music and art do exist. Cohen’s work, however, allows us see the humanity behind the legends without destroying them.
Who knew that Bob Dylan put his pants on the same way as everyone else? Cohen’s photo of a young Dylan trying to button his pants around an expanding waistline gives us a rare glipse of the humanity of the man who singlehandedly changed the history of music.
Stephen McNulty, conservation/fine arts photographer and curator of the Joseph Saxton Gallery of Photography chose this photo as his favorite among Cohen’s vast collection.
There is No Eye: A Restrospective by John Cohen will be on public display at the Joseph Saxton Gallery from October 9, 2010 through January 8, 2011. Cohen will make an appearance at the gallery on October 8, 2010 for an exclusive preview and reception.
McNulty explained that Cohen, known more for his work as a filmmaker, sound recorder and musician, spent over 50 years photographing some of the musical greats of the beatnik generation. “Cohen has only recently been recognized for his photography, however,” said McNulty. “As a curator, it is exciting to find new artists who have not worn out their artistic welcome.”
Local photographer Michael Bareth explained his own excitement about the upcoming show, “I am intrigued by the Dylan-esque quality of Cohen’s work, ” he said. Having grown up in the seventies, this show has special meaning for those of us who lived during that era.”
An able musician himself, Cohen was both friend and contemporary of artists such as: Roscoe Holcomb, Doc Watson, Muddy Waters, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, the Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe and the iconic Dylan. His personal access allowed him to capture unique and intimate views of these great men who so significantly contributed to musical history.
Cohen’s photography spans beyond musical legends, as well. After traveling once to Peru to record Andean folk music, he returned seven more times to document the Andean arts and culture.
Cohen’s photography reminds us of a day when documenting celebrity was about recognizing the uniqueness of intriguing personalities, and not about trying to catch someone in the act of a transgression. No doubt, some of his subjects became “trainwrecks” at different points in their lives, but not as a result of his lens exploiting them.
There is no exploitation here. Only rare views of real people whose stories and art enriched the lives of others.
Tickets for John Cohen’s special appearance at the Joseph Saxton Gallery of Photography on October 8 are $50 per person and $80 per couple. Ticket Price includes: exclusive preview and reception for John Cohen; copy of the book There is No Eye ($30 value) to be signed by John Cohen; special sneak peak of Cohen’s forthcoming film, “Roscoe Holcomb: From Daisy Kentucky”; discussion and once in a lifetime performance by John Cohen and musical guests Brady’s Leap. Call 330.438.0030 for reservations. Only 100 tickets are available.
The Joseph Saxton Gallery of Photography is open Wednesday – Saturday 12 pm – 5 pm.
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