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image by
Mark Cohen
1967 headless horseman

It has been a long time that I had my first encounter with a few of Mark Cohens images in a compilation. I liked his images, and was delighted to discover that he has published as late as 2005 his first book called “Grim Street”, one of those few photo books, that stand out of the crowd.

Grim Street also contains a long conversation between the curator Anne Wilkes Tucker, a conversation that is interesting because of the things said, but also because of what is not said.

Mark Cohen was awarded twice the Guggenheim Fellowship. His work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art. His photography is outstanding; he developed early a highly unconventional and abstract language of his own.

Still, as I understood it, he never succeeded on the art market, his two books came out late. Compared to other photographers, even lesser ones, I would call his work invisible.

There must be reasons for his, in a way, lack of success.

Mark Cohen has no formal education in photography.
His images aren’t easy to consume.
And last, but not least, he might have been not sleek enough communicating with those who are managing the art world.

Anne Wilkes Tucker: When you say, “I’m making pictures to put in the drawer,” there is a kind of determination on your part to continue with what is in your particular eye when I’m sure there were dealers saying to you, “If you’d back off a little, it’d be easier to sell them.” Were there not?

Mark Cohen: Well, no. They didn’t make any effort to sell them because they weren’t expensive enough. They were only six hundred dollars, so it didn’t matter to the dealers, or to the Marlborough Gallery or to Virginia Zabriskie either. The galleries thought that my pictures were strong. I got good reviews, but they never sold many. But that was okay. It’s still hard to sell them. For instance, I sold the headless horseman picture to somebody and he brought it back because it frightened his wife. Now, if I made landscapes or still lifes I guess that it would be easier. Or if I made pictures of Paris or New York. I don’t know.

Some advice how to become a successful art photographer:

There is art,
and there is art business.
Its all about networking.

As long you aren´t dead,
you, the artist belong to the package you are selling.

Be convinced of yourself,
then you will convince people.

Make people notice you.
Be friendly to the important people.

Produce and don´t stop producing.

Sex sells.
Adolescent girls sell.

Make your prints huge.
Assimilate the size and the aura of paintings.

Leave the boundaries of photography behind you:
make people think of you as an artist, let them forget that you are a photographer.

If nothing helps,
commit suicide.
That could help.