I am now privileged to be a full-time fine art photographer, having transitioned from a 40 year career in biomedical research. While the camera is my principal tool of discovery, the stages of my work have not changed. The discovery (now of light, color, and form), the development of the idea highlighted by the discovery (now in image enhancement, printing, revision, and editing), and the public presentation (now online and in galleries), remains much the same process as my previous career with many of the same rewards. I am lucky to have discovered that contemporary photography represents just as vibrant a community as does contemporary scientific research.
What is it that attracts my eye that I wish to communicate? In research, much of my work was directed at the function of cell membrane proteins. The membranes of a cell are an interface that separates its compartments, and as a result, are where all the communication to and from is focused. In discovering my photographic images, I put myself at a similar interface - the eyepiece, the lens, the monitor, the printer - and search for visual information coming and going. I have become fascinated by how the flat surface of a boat hull along its waterline - or even on a decaying plant - can hold accumulated residues, scratches, wrinkles, and scrapes that can convey the space of a landscape or seascape, or the passage of time. The patterns of wear and oxidized paint flowing from drain holes on the boat hulls have provided indisputable records of pollutants entering the sea, and offer another portal of information.
These images begin as photographs of the waterline painted along the hulls of boats sitting on their cradles in boatyards, awaiting their return to the sea. As a teenager, I spent the springtime scraping and painting, preparing similar boat hulls for the season ahead. I have returned to walk in boatyards, seeking the passage of years. The boats are covered, now usually shrink-wrapped to keep out the weather, but leaving the waterline and bottoms exposed. The waterline is often encrusted with the residues of the past years. Pausing to study this evidence of where the boat has been, one perceives that the waterline provides an horizon. Above and below that are details of imagined landscapes, perhaps those that could be seen from the boats themselves when they sailed on the water. In developing these images, I share my own imagination and provide the seed for each viewer to form their own remembered landscapes. This project is ultimately an exploration of the minimal elements required to form a landscape in the mind’s eye - the waterline as coastline, the texture as weather, the footprint of barnacles as stars.
As I have searched for landscape imagery along boat hull waterlines, I have been struck by evidence of the record of water pollution. The waterline is sometimes interrupted by drains and scupper holes from which the outflow leaves traces of various corrosives, rust, and pollutants disgorged from within. The drain hole is the concentrated source of these pollutants that are diluted once they enter the sea. The color and forms introduced by the interaction of the pollutants with the boat’s bottom paint provide iconic symbols of man’s disturbance of nature, and are inescapable evidence of the downside of the sailor’s voyage upon the sea.
Passage - the transit of seasons, years, and space. The panoramic images in Passage began in noticing the effect of passing seasons on plants around boatyards. In the fall, various plants take on some of the same features found in the boat hulls, but in doing so yield a beauty of their own. In Passage, I have integrated the colors and surface textures of these plants and trees into a stretch of waterline on a boat hull as a way to highlight this passage in both subjects. Scanning the panorama also highlights the aspect of time. Fading hostas in the fall provide a special focus for the Passage theme. The hostas, which in season have beautiful color and symmetry, fade in color, shape and texture, and take on textures and shapes of ocean waves, rotting wood, and sea creatures. Here, these textures and shapes blend into that of the worn boat hulls. Hosta images are studies of the beauty of slow natural deterioration. In the spring, both boats and plants are renewed, and fresh growth and blooms around the boatyard urge the sailor to restore the condition of their boat hulls.
Agave Night Visions
These images of dying agave cactus fronds were made primarily at El Charco, a botanical garden in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. As I walked amongst these archaic plants, I noted that their lower fronds were dying back from the tips inward. Patterns and textures on the dead portions of the fronds were left behind, and wonderfully complex green, yellow, and blue patterns remained above the line that demarcated the living frond. I pictured the withering plants in the surrounding deserts bearing witness to and imprinting their surroundings during solitary nights:
“Moonlit desert gardens, cold nights, lonely peaks reaching to starry skies.
The ancient agave stands witness to its surroundings in a separate time.
Days and years pass, but nightly wonder presents itself.
Sending its death shoot skyward, the fronds of the agave die back from their tip,
recording as they do so some of the best views from a long life.”
Richard Alan Cohen lives in the South End of Boston and Litchfield County, Connecticut. He graduated from Bowdoin College where he co-majored in science and art, and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His lifetime interest in art derives from his mother, an art teacher and painter, and his father, a house designer and builder. Since leaving his research career, he has embraced the photographic medium to continue discovery and communicating his insights to others. Richard has exhibited his photographs in numerous solo and group shows at venues including 555 Gallery, Panopticon Gallery, the Griffin Museum of Photography, Galatea Gallery, and Sohn Fine Art.
Richard Alan Cohen
Gallery on the Green, Canton CT “Along the Waterline”
Gallery on the Green, Canton CT “Objectives of Desire: Vignettes”
SOWA First Friday Morse Editions
Galatea Gallery, Boston “Objectives of Desire”
SOWA First Friday Morse Editions
SOWA First Friday Morse Editions
Two-Person Juried Show
“Waterlines”. Westport Free Library, sponsored by the Westport (MA) Art Group, Awarded by Karen Davis of Davis-Orton Gallery, Hudson, NY.
Five-Person Juried Shows
Panopticon Gallery, Boston. First Look 2018. Six “Waterline” images selected by gallery director, Kat Kiernan.
Sohn Gallery, Lenox MA. 7th Annual Juried Show, Jurors: Ann Jon, Wayne Alpern, Jonas Dovydenas, and Susan Wissler. 4 selected images, Waterlines-3 and -11, Overboard-1 and-3.
Group Juried Shows
Plymouth Center for the Arts, 8th Annual Fine Art of Photography Open Juried Exhibition, Jurors: Mark Chester, Suzanne Revy, Bob Singer, Selected Image: “Overboard-3”.
Gallery on the Green, Canton, CT, Artists Association, 50th Annual Open Juried Exhibition, Juror, Lisa Hayes Williams, New Britain (CT) Museum of American Art, Selected image: “Waterline-15”.
Ashton Gallery, San Diego, CA, Orange is the New Black, Juror: Jenna S. Jacobs, San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, Selected image: “Psyche”.
Griffin Museum of Photography: “The Visual Metric”, Juror, Paula Tognarelli, Lafayette Center Gallery, Selected image: “Finale”
Westport Art Group: “Treasure”, Juror, Karen Davis, 3 selected images from “Objectives of Desire: Vignettes”, awarded two-person show.
Davis-Orton Gallery: 3rd Annual Group Show, Juror, Paula Tognarelli, Selected image: “Bilge drain”.
Griffin Museum of Photography: “Space” exhibition, Lafayette Center Gallery, Juror, Paula Tognarelli, Selected image: “Psyche”
Gallery on the Green, Canton, CT, Artists Association, 44th Annual Open Juried Exhibition
Selected image: “Snail Pool”
Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery, Portsmouth NH, New Hampshire Artists Association, Open Juried Exhibition, Selected image: “Frames”, Juror’s honorable mention
Atelier 21 at The Rockport Art Association, Griffin Museum of Photography
Atelier 21: Griffin Museum of Photography
Don’t Take Pictures: Rule Breakers, featured Waterlines, curated by Kat Kiernan, August 30, 2017, https://goo.gl/LdmvaU
aPhotoEditor, featured Ambiguity of Cityspace, curated by Jonathan Blaustein, November 6, 2015, https://goo.gl/a2xEQ3
International Fine Art Photography Awards, Nominee, Abstract Category: Overboard
Neutral Density Awards, Honorable mention (Conceptual category): Alien Portraits
Neutral Density Awards, Honorable mention (Conceptual category): Waterlines
Neutral Density Awards, Honorable mention (Conceptual category): Overboard
Neutral Density Awards, Honorable mention (Conceptual category): Objectives of Desire: Ginza
Neutral Density Awards, Honorable mention (Conceptual category): Objectives of Desire: Vignettes
Neutral Density Awards, Honorable mention (Conceptual Category): Ambiguity of Cityspace,
Neutral Density Awards, Honorable mention (Conceptual Category): What the Dummies Can Tell Us
Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine: Graduation with Art Minor, 1972.
Photoshop and printing training, William Morse, 2013-2017.
Atelier 21 with Meg Birnbaum at Griffin Museum of Photography, 2014.
D65 Creativity workshop with John Paul Caponigro and Seth Resnick, Cushing Maine, 2016.
Gallery representation: Kingman Photography Gallery Deer Isle, ME.
Galatea Gallery, Boston. MA 2015-2017
Gallery on the Green, Canton, CT 2016-