Roeg Cohen’s work is hardly temperamental. His photographs deliver a sweet and melancholy air. The Toronto-born photographer, currently residing in New York, leaves us with a contemplative warmth that sits somewhere deep in our bones. You feel a sense of ease, and deliberation in movement and breath through the images he captures. I managed to connect with Roeg to talk about his work, inspirations, and advice on finding a channel for creative energy.
LF: Hi Roeg! Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers? Maybe a bit of your background, where you are right now and anything else you’d like to share.
RC: Hello. I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. I currently live in NY, where I’ve been for 10 years. At the moment, I’m in South Florida.
LF: What are you currently working on? Any big plans you’re day dreaming about?
RC: The reason I’m in Florida, is an ongoing project I’ve been doing on horses. Honestly, I’m doing what I’ve been day dreaming about for the last month. It’s so beautiful down here…It’s everything I wanted it to be.
LF: Florida, beautiful sunny skies! Tell me a little bit about the project you’re doing there. What is it about horses that captivate you so?
RC: The sky is so immense down here…it’s magical. Within the Equine project, I’m doing a specific series for this year. It’s the Year of the Horse on the Chinese calendar. So I’m shooting as much as I can around the country, with the intention of doing a show of those images. There is an interesting bond between man and horse. Having never been around horses, it’s been really fun to get to know how to relate to them. There is something meloncholy about them…a look in their eyes has a weight that I really respond to. And visually, they photograph so beautifully.
LF: We’ve featured your project “Equine” before. Tell me a little bit about your work on this. What inspired the project?
RC: It’s something I started about 5 years ago. A random picture I took of a horse in Pennsylvania, really stuck with me. I had been looking for a long term personal project and thought horses would be good. There is lot to discover and learn, plus I’m curious about them. It’s become the thing I enjoy the most. The process is almost always fun. I can tell the story of all pictures in the series.
LF: You work a lot in black and white, what is it about the look that draws you?
RC: It’s funny, because I don’t think of myself as someone who shoots a lot in black and white. But when I go through my pictures, that is definitely the case. I try to capture a certain mood in pictures. And I find that sometimes reducing an image to black and white helps do that. I also like an image to look like something other then what you see with your eyes…to remove it from reality a bit.
LF: How would you describe your work to a friend? What do you hope to provoke in an onlooker browsing your photography?
RC: That’s always a hard one. I’ve been told that my pictures, whether it be of a horse, a portrait, or fashion, has the same feeling, which makes me feel like I’m doing something right. That feeling has been described to me as “moody”, so I’ll lean towards that. “Thoughtful” works for me as well. The feeling I want to provoke is curiosity about the subject…like there is something else to know about them…an unwritten subtext. That’s why I stay away from conceptual shoots. It’s too informative.
LF: Where do you look for inspiration when you’re feeling a little dried up?
RC: I don’t really have a specific thing like going to a museum, or looking at books for inspiration. The most important thing for me is to get out of the city, and be somewhere my mind can wander. Driving in wide open spaces always gets me back on track.
LF: What brought you to life behind the lens? How did you discover photography?
RC: When I moved to NY, I was having a lot of creative energy that I needed an outlet for. I was writing a lot, and had always wanted to do that, but sitting and working was hard for me. I wanted a visual medium. Photography came to mind as the obvious choice.
LF: What of your previous projects do you feel you’ve learned from the most?
RC: The Horse series is the only project I’ve had that’s been that specific. I’ve done smaller portrait projects, or followed an aesthetic theme for a while. In a sense, a person’s body of work is a project in itself. And what I’ve learned while building that, is to listen to my instincts, and to do and pursue the things that interest me, that I’m curious about, and can learn from. I feel that if I’m not interested, that it will show in the images.
LF: We live in such a high stress society, many of us struggle with a harboring of creative energy we don’t know how to channel. You’ve managed to find your way quite well! What advice would can give to a person struggling to capture their art?
RC: Keep your head down and do what you care about without concern for what other people are doing. In the end, whether you have success or not, you will have the work you make. And you want to be proud of that.
LF: How fast do you live?
RC: I would say I’m more slow and steady. The Tortoise, not the Hare.