I have transitioned from a 40 year career in biomedical research, directing a large team of highly valued colleagues. I am now a full-time photographer, having taken up a camera as 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, editing), and the public presentation (now online and in galleries), remains much the same process 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 act to separate its compartments, and as a result, are where all the communication is concentrated. In collecting my images of windows, I put myself at a similar interface of glass that separates outside, where I stand, from inside, where I marvel at “objectives of desire” that are sold within. In more recent work, I have been fascinated by how the flat surface of a boat hull along its waterline can hold accumulated residues, scratches, and scrapes that can convey the space of a landscape or seascape. In addition, drain holes on the boat hulls have provided indisputable records of pollutants entering the sea.
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.
Ambiguity of Cityspace
My photographs of store windows aim to juxtapose what dazzles us from the outside with the motivations of commercialization and its disconnectedness from the natural world. These artificially extravagant and alluring inner spaces, which I have captured in locations around the world, are appointed with curious color, eerie light, and shiny baubles. The same devices are used in storefronts ranging from rural main streets to the Ginza fashion district in Tokyo, Japan. Our views of these spaces are defined by window or door frames, and their ambiguity highlighted by our separation from that which is contained in the interior.
What the Dummies Can Tell Us
Mannequins, increasingly more human-like, beckon to us from inside the commercial environment. These artificial beings belong there and were created to represent ideals that command our participation. They seem comfortable in their surroundings, and may sit in judgment of those looking in, perhaps asking if each person meets their expectations.
These images offer a closer look at the artful compositions employed by storefront designers in every commercial niche— from antiques, to stationery, to second hand. The vignette previews the style of the store, while establishing an atmosphere that attracts us into the shop. In this series, I aim to document the original intent of the window designer to appeal, while framing and developing the images to emphasize what it is that seduces our senses.
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. He has embraced the photographic medium to continue discovery and communicating his insights to others.
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
“Waterlines”. Westport Free Library, sponsored by the Westport (MA) Art Group, Awarded by Karen Davis of Davis-Orton Gallery, Hudson, NY.
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
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
Atelier 21 with Meg Birnbaum at Griffin Museum of Photography, 2014.
D65 Creativity workshop with John Paul Caponigro and Seth Resnick, Cushing Maine, 2016.
Galatea Gallery, Boston. MA 2015-2017
Gallery on the Green, Canton, CT
Prints: Archival pigment prints on paper in sizes 12" x 18" to 20" x 30" are available for purchase. Dye sublimation prints on metal up to 30" x 45" are true to color and are stunning. Please inquire.