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John Cohen began making photographs in 1954 when the only work for a photographer was in photo journalism or in advertising, neither of which he wanted to do. Instead he made his own personal photographs, documenting things which were important to him: mostly artists and musicians. His photographic inquiries lead him to the Andes and to Appalachia, where he photographed traditional musicians in their own homes. 

His photographs have been exhibited throughout the United States and reside in many public collections. In addition to gaining fine art notoriety, his images were used on record covers, in television and movie productions, and informed his later film projects. With his long-time publisher, Steidl, John published a number of photography books. 

Invested in the future of the field, John started the photography program at Purchase College SUNY in 1972 where he taught for twenty-five years. His photographic estate is represented by L. Parker Stephenson in New York.



“For me, photography suggested a sense of action where an artist might move through the world and make images from his own experience. The lens became like the balance point in an equation that had the visible world on one side and the interior world on the other.”


solo exhibitions


Dedication | Galerie Julian Sander,  Cologne, Germany 

The 10th Street Art World, 1957-1963 | L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, New York, NY 

John Cohen Photographer | Brink Gallery, Missoula, MT 

Woody Guthrie & Friends | Woody Guthrie Museum, Tulsa, OK 

Musée Rimbaud, Charleville-Mezieres, Serge Aboukrat (Galerie La Non-Maison), Paris, and Galerie La Non-Maison, Aix en Provence, France 

Past, Present, Peru | Deborah Bell Photographs, New York, NY 

Wave Gallery, Brescia, Italy

Ice Box Gallery, Minneapolis, MN

Mizel Center, Denver, CO

Silver Eye Center for Photography, Pittsburgh, PA 

Neuberger Museum, Purchase College SUNY, NY

Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC

Hampshire College, Amherst, MA

Middle Tennessee State Univ. Murfreesboro, TN

Daytona Beach Center for Photography, Daytona Beach, FL

Witherspoon Museum, Greensboro, NC

College of Santa Fe photo gallery, NM

Chicago Cultural Center, IL

Photographic Resource Center, Boston, MA

Nacional Museo de Arte, Lima, Peru

Side Gallery, Newcastle, England

Photographers Gallery, Wales

Neuberger Museum, SUNY Purchase, NY

Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI

Image Gallery, New York, NY

American Institute of Graphic Artists, New York, NY

Yale University Art Museum, New Haven, CT

Limelight Gallery, New York, NY





























John Cohen's photography estate is managed by L. Parker Stephenson Gallery 

group exhibitions

Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1950-1965 (traveling) | Grey Art Gallery, New York University, NY and Abu Dhabi 

Beat Generation (traveling) |Center Georges Pompidou, Paris, France and ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany 

Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival | Museum of the City of New York, NY 

American Cool | National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC 

Roving Signs | Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, NY 

Happenings New York, 1958-1963 | Pace Gallery Chelsea, New York, NY 

Recent Acquisitions: A Decade of Collecting | Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York NY 

Insiders: Intimate Images | Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco, CA

This World, Another World |Photo Eye Gallery, Santa Fe, NM

Keeping Time: the Music Photographs of John Cohen & Milt Hinton | Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Extended Play | Photographic Resource Center, Boston, MA

A Spiritual Journey: photography in Latin America | Brooklyn Museum, NY

Andean Light | Queens College, New York, NY

Beat Culture and the New America, 1950-1965 | Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

Beat Generation | New York University Gallery, NY

The Sixties | 292 Gallery, New York, NY

Rebels, Poets & Artists of the 1950s | National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Spirit of the New Landscape | Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME

Visual Arts Gallery, New York, NY

Image Gallery, New York, NY 
























public collections


Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Brooklyn Museum

Museum of Modern Art

Victoria & Albert Museum, London 

Side gallery, Newcastle, England 

Rhode Island School of Design 

Neuberger Museum

New York Public Library 

National Portrait Gallery 

Corcoran Gallery of Art

books & monographs

John worked with both powerHouse Books and Steidl Verlag  to produce numerous books that document musicians, places, and key cultural moments. 


There Is No Eye

In 2001, John published his first retrospective collection of photos called There is No Eye, with a corresponding Folkways Album called Music for Photographs, and an exhibit of prints  organized at the Photographic Resource Center in Boston which travelled to over a dozen venues around the country.

The project features the sights and sounds of Robert Frank, Red Grooms, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Roscoe Holcomb, Doc Watson, Muddy Waters, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, The Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, and Bob Dylan, among others. The book was published through powerHouse Books; the album was released by Smithsonian Folkways Records.

published photos

John's images have been used in popular magazines, as album art for other musicians, and in exhibition catalogs.  

  • "Book of the Beat," Rolling Stone (1999)

  • Creative Camera, England (1973)

  • Library of Congress Folklife Annual

  • Aperture Magazine (1972)

  • Vanity Fair, Life, Time, Fortune, Esquire, NY Times Magazine, Seventeen, Harper's Bazaar, Popular Photography, US Camera Annual, Natural History Magazine, Interview, Rolling Stone

  • "Beat Culture & the New America", Whitney Museum (catalog)

  • "Moving Out: Robert Frank," National Gallery of Art (catalog)

  • "Naked Lens: Beat Cinema," Creation Publishing (cover)

  • Jack Kerouac: Angleheaded Hipster by S. Turner, Bloomsbury

  • "Blam! The Explosion of Pop, Minimalism & Performance 1958-1964," Whitney Museum of Art

  • Red Grooms, Abbeville (catalog)

  • "Alice Neel," Philadelphia Museum of Art (catalog)

  • "The Stamp of Impulse: Abstract Expressionist Prints," Worcester Museum

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