Home Film Mark Cohen exhibition at Leica Gallery London

Mark Cohen exhibition at Leica Gallery London


Since Leica Gallery London opened in February, the new destination has hosted inspiring exhibitions of iconic Leica photographers. The next exhibition follows suit with renowned American photographer, Mark Cohen’s ‘Just Outside’ running from 17 July to 1 September 2019.

Boy in Yellow Shirt Smoking – Mark Cohen

Mark Cohen is renowned for his gritty and close-up street photography which started in his hometown, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, when he was only 12 years old. He later came to the conclusion that all the inspiration he needed was in his own industrial backyard – Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, a historic industrialised region in the northeast of Pennsylvania.

Inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Cohen photographs his subjects uncomfortably even audaciously close. The intrusive style pays off as his images are seemingly natural, a true snapshot of a moment capturing an elderly woman in a headscarf smoking a cigarette or a young girl walking self-consciously and deep in thought. The vulnerability and intimacy of these subjects are due to his ability to crop by getting in close, a behaviour that would intermittently get Cohen in trouble.  As Cohen says: “a lot of times I had trouble with the cops, because if you walk into somebody’s yard and start taking pictures of a rope that’s sitting there, they’ll call the police.”

His works became particularly successful in the 1970s which saw him exhibit at New York’s MoMa.

Upside Down Girl, Mark Cohen

Leica Gallery London’s exhibition, ‘Just Outside’ is quintessential Cohen and features a selection of his works throughout the years, including the acclaimed photograph “Boy in Yellow Shirt Smoking”. The black & white and colour images from his hometown evolve around intimate moments between a group of kids or slices of faces up close and personal. Weird and wonderful angles are achieved through his nimble balletic moves and quick-as-a-flash snapping.

‘Just Outside’ will be shown at the Leica Gallery London from 17 July – 1 September 2019. All prints from the exhibition will be for sale and for the first time, all black & white prints from the exhibition will be available to purchase in larger sizes.


  1. It’s funny, isn’t it? ..When a photo seems to have no merit in itself – such as a picture of a cheeky boy smoking, which could be just a passer-by’s holiday snap – when it’s taken up by a cultural institution ..in the way that William Eggleston’s snaps were taken up by John Szarkowski of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.. they suddenly seem to have some extra value beyond what was seen in them before.

    Like Martin Parr’s seaside snaps. They receive cultural affirmation. They become important artefacts and commentaries on the current state of our civilisation.

    I mean, if you just saw this snap in someone’s album of 1970s postcard-sized Instamatic prints, would you give it a second look?

    Of course, blown up to 36 inches wide, all snapshots take on some kind of extra, er, significance ..they look as though they ought to be looked at. Same with massive Holga prints ..they take on a new substance as ‘Art’ rather than just blurry, smeared, plastic-lensed snaps.

    So should we rely on our own assessments of photos we see ..or should we ask what the ‘art specialists’ think of them before being sure what our own opinions are?

    Are Cindy Sherman’s twenty-one photos of herself really ‘worth’ US$ 6,773,000 (six and three-quarter million dollars) ..as sold at Christie’s New York on 12th November 2014? ..Or who’s kidding whom?

    Looking at Dave Seargeant’s photos of Upper Teesdale, if they were blown up to the size of Andreas Gursky’s “Rhine II” ..that’s 1564 x 3083 mm, or 5 feet by 10 feet.. how much would you be prepared to pay for them? ..Would they be ‘worth’ more as huge prints than if they were postcard-size little ’Enprints’? How much does the size matter, versus the content?

    Is Mark Cohen’s “Boy in Yellow Shirt Smoking” worth anything? If so, how much? Does it have any intrinsic merit?

    Really asking what you think of it – as no-one else has commented –

    – David B.

    • I’m on your side of the argument David. I’m still trying to get my head around the most valuable photograph ever ( “Rhein II” by Andreas Gursky) which in my experience would have bombed in any club competition.

  2. Comparing Mark Cohen to HCB says it all. The extremely sophisticated composition of many of HCB’s photos set them far apart from “snaps”. Some of Mark Cohen’s photos show that he has the same skill, but it seems to be somewhat sparingly used. As for Gursky’s photos, I can almost believe that he is poking fun at the abstract painters of the 1960’s. Then there is Mr. Parr. He has a wonderful sense of humor, but again, I’d like to think that something a bit more sophisticated as far as composition is concerned would be more “worthy” of Magna.


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