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John Cohen was a photographer, filmmaker, musician, painter, draftsman, documentarian, ethnomusicologist, and a man of many intersecting interests. His passion for art and music moved him through the world with a watchful eye and an open ear. He was hungry to collect and share the experiences that had such an impact on his inner life.


This site provides an introduction to his work and an opportunity to broaden understanding of his approach to his many projects. His different practices informed one other: the impact of his design/visual training on the promotion of traditional music; the relationship he found between traditional music, traditional textiles, and Bauhaus ideas of rhythm and pattern; the role of the artist as documentarian; and how his work addressed social, racial and gender inequalities even as he benefitted from great privilege.


His work transcends disciplines and cultural boundaries. He recognized the dignified talent in people that society overlooked and worked hard to support their creative expression.


To dive deeper, see the Resources page linking to his archived collections at the Library of Congress Folklife Division, and to the various publishers, labels and gallerists who manage his legacy.

“Can the photographer's eye be a guiding filter for music? Can music affect the photographer's eye? Can you see music or hear photographs? Or is there a more fundamental resonance that responds to art and music?”

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