John Cohen Biography

John Cohen Biography

John Cohen, born in 1932 in New York City, was a filmmaker, artist, musician, and photographer who lived in Putnam Valley, New York. After receiving an M.F.A. from Yale University, Cohen became involved with the artistic, literary, and musical movements developing in New York City in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Cohen worked with the legendary photographer Robert Frank on the Beat Generation film Pull My Daisy, documented the work of the Abstract Expressionists and Pop Artists, and was an influential part of the Folk Music Revival as a musicologist and member of the New Lost City Ramblers with Mike Seeger and Tom Paley.

An interest in the world at large led Cohen to Peru where he documented the life and textile arts of the people there. Cohen then traveled to Appalachia first as a photographer and musicologist, then as a filmmaker. The High Lonesome Sound, a portrait of rural Kentucky and musician Roscoe Holcomb, was Cohen's first film. Cohen later produced more than a dozen films about a wide variety of subjects.

Cohen's later projects were a book of photographs There is No Eye: John Cohen Photographs (2001) with a companion CD, and The High & Lonesome Sound: The Legacy of Roscoe Holcomb (2012) with a companion CD and DVD.

To learn more about John Cohen, see his website and the John Cohen obituary in the New York Times, Sept. 18, 2019.