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Life & Work with Martin Cohen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Martin Cohen.

Hi Martin, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I have always been curious: about people, about the universe, about other cultures and faraway countries. I was born in Amsterdam, Holland to a Jewish doctor and a Danish mom, who was a wonderful singer. After high school, I went to university to study physics and astronomy but found the first year so dry and boring that I quit and went to film school instead. That was a lot more fun – I loved the visual media and making movies was really exciting. I directed and edited and I traveled to Africa for several months at age 23, coming home with a huge amount of photographs and super-8 film. Then I went on to study acting in New York with Stella Adler in the early eighties, directed some theater and live TV-shows (smaller independent productions) and finally settled in Los Angeles.

I started a photography studio with a good friend and for a few years, we did very well. I kept doing small parts in plays and short films and since photography paid for my rent, that became my main focus over the past three decades. I kept up the travel and fell in love with Cuba, where I took thousands of photographs over the years. This culminated in a large museum exhibition in Buenos Aires at the beautiful Palais de Glace.

Just over ten years ago, I bought a telescope on eBay and soon found myself addicted to imaging the moon, the planets and faraway galaxies and nebulae. It is still one of my great passions. My latest creative venture is singing classical music and opera. After my mom passed away in March 2016, I looked up the songs she used to sing on YouTube. I found some great accompaniment tracks and started to sing the songs myself. When Covid-19 hit, my photography business took a nosedive and I had a lot of extra time. I decided to take my singing more seriously and found an amazing teacher. I am now working on an opera production (Cendrillon by Pauline Viardot) and will be performing on the Broad Stage in Santa Monica in December.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It’s never a smooth road! How can life ever be a smooth road? It would be boring as hell. Overcoming our obstacles and struggling to be victorious is what keeps our spirit young and what makes life interesting. Not always in the moment itself, since occasionally it can get really bad. Having the resilience to come back after a hard blow is a necessary tool for survival.

I have been broke more times than I care to remember, I went through breakups and a divorce, I lost my dad at a young age, I lost one of my dearest friends to a brain tumor – the list goes on. But I am blessed with great health and wonderful friends and my Buddhist practice has taught me to never give up. I love my life, and no matter how tough it may get at times, every moment in this crazy world is precious.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I do… too many things! Maybe it’s the diversity that makes it fun and interesting, I don’t think I was destined to do one thing and one thing only. I specialize in photography (which is what I am mostly known for) but my love for music, travel, great food and wine – I love entertaining my friends – is what keeps me going. I am proud of several images I have taken of the universe and my Cuba work. I don’t really think so much about myself in terms of accomplishments and what sets me apart from others. I am a perfectionist and most of the time I am too critical to be thrilled with my own work. But when I get into “the zone” I feel perfectly happy and nothing else seems to exist except for what I am doing. Being under the stars with a camera and telescope, capturing light that was emitted thousands and sometimes millions of years ago, is a transformative experience. And music is so important as well… I play classical guitar and over the past few years singing has been a pure joy.

Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?
I was an exuberant little boy with dark blonde curly hair, hard to control, always taking things apart to find out what they looked like on the inside… My dad sent me to my grandparents in Denmark for a month when I was three years old because he found I was too much to handle. High energy… but sweet, affectionate and full of life.

Pricing:

  • Exhibition prints of my Universe series: $75 – $450, depending on size
  • Exhibition prints of my Cuba series: $150 – $750, depending on size
  • Photography coaching: $75/hr
  • Astro-imaging coaching: $75/hr

Contact Info:


Image Credits
All photographs by Martin Cohen, Copyright © 2021

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