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‘Brought to Light’ – Mobile Photography / Art Interview with Robin Cohen from Los Angeles, California, USA

Our ‘Brought to Light‘ interview section explores the mobile photographers and mobile artists behind their art. Each question has been carefully crafted and is designed to allow us to get to know them a little more intimately. To view others that we have published in this series, please go here.

Today, we are featuring Robin Cohen a talented mobile photographer and artist from Los Angeles, California, USA. In this series of work I cannot help but feel a close similarity to Massimo Vitali’s work in his Beach Series which he began in 1995. The Italian photographer who trained at the London College of Printing, described his beach photography as “cosmetic fakery, sexual innuendo, commodified leisure, a deluded sense of affluence and rigid conformism“. I would not say that Cohen’s work relates to that quotation per se, but I would comment that there’s a feeling of impassivity and eager voyeurism.

Beach scenes are interesting, humans are most often in a state of undress, they’re on common land, anyone can take part and the landscape is as important as the people within it. Cohen’s work shows little ‘dead’ space, each beach scene is densely populated and none are posed. One of Cohen’s desires is to become an abstract portraitist, as opposed to a traditional portrait photographer. I would say that her beach scenes are already a form of abstract portraiture, perhaps representative as a panorama of modern 21st century beach life, both alluring and uncanny.

Are they modelling a false paradise? Perhaps, there’s a crossing and recrossing of the borders between abstraction and figuration and between the process of creating an image alongside the invention of an image. Perchance this is where Freud’s abstraction lies. Cohen’s art is needed, it is a vessel of humanity and altruism shielding us from deceit and disarray of our age.

This body of work drew us to Robin Cohen.

All photos ©Robin Cohen


Describe a moment that changed your life

I’m sure that the birth of my daughter was the moment that changed my life. I knew that she would see and be part of every decision and activity I was involved in.  I wanted to be the kind of person that she could feel secure and learn from. I became a calmer and more disciplined person (although that means I went from a 1 on a scale of 10, to a 4 on that scale… I will never be very disciplined). Being a parent, for me, involves continually shedding preconceptions and expectations and allowing another person, completely separate from myself, to develop and bloom in their own way.

Describe a childhood photographic/art memory

This is a painful and puzzling memory. In my junior or senior year of high school, I had an art class project.  I began to paint a pier over a lake with a moody sky.  After working on the sky for awhile… I was very proud of it… my mother said, “why don’t we get cousin Ronnie (who is an artist) over here to finish it, so that it will be good?”  I didn’t really object, and cousin Ronnie came and made it into a “good” art project.  To this day, I can’t imagine what she was thinking.. what is the purpose of an art project if you are not creating the art?

My mother probably would say that she wanted me to get a good grade (for college) as a rationale for dismissing my creative impulse. And what was going on with me, that I went along with it? We can have a psychoanalysis session another time…. In any case, because of this pattern, I grew up without a sense that I owned my own creativity and more disturbingly, I grew up with anxiety about whether what I produced would be good enough, which paralyzed my ability to create just for the hell of it.

Describe your photographic/art studio

one of the things that makes me love mobile photography is that fact that I have my studio with me at all times! My studio is in my purse.  I love to shoot while moving through the city… and I really mean MOVING!  I love apps, such as Slow Shutter, that allow me to capture my movement and the energy of Los Angeles.

What do you like to think about whilst you are creating images

I am not aware of any specific thinking process while I’m creating. Almost in a trancelike state, I allow myself to be immersed in the process of trying different apps and effects. There is a quality of jazz improvisation or the emergence of a form (as in sculpture), as I work on a project. I feel great pleasure and surprise as it evolves into something new and exciting to me. I am only happy with the result if I feel that excitement at the end.

Share one photo tip

I have lately added Ultrapop to my app arsenal. I am finding that sometimes the usual colors, say for a landscape, feel a little boring.  So, I sometimes run the landscape or other color photo through Ultrapop to bring in a new and unusual palette. Other apps where you can access interesting colors and tones are: iColorama and Metabrush.

Who or what ignited your passion for mobile photography

I became involved in photography because of the natural ease of digital art for me, and because of the support, learning and curiosity that occur naturally through social media. I think that I began to love mobile art specifically when I got an iPhone. I find unlimited creative potential in the wonderful apps that are available on iPhones. When I started sharing my work on social media, and seeing others’ work there, my curiosity was engaged: I wondered, “How did she do that?” and that always got me experimenting.

What is the most unusual subject you have photographed

My feet underwater while lying in my bathtub…. and I added fish to the photo…

What are your favourite mobile photography/art accessories?

My iPad is great for processing, and my mobile Lensbaby lens is fun under the right conditions.

Describe your dream Photography assignment

I think that I would like to be an ABSTRACT portraitist.  Specifically, I would hate to do traditional portraits, often done with DSLRs and all sorts of equipment, involving lighting and reflectors, etc., designed to create a portrait where someone looks beautiful by conventional standards.

I would love to be a portraitist that has the freedom to create a fascinating art piece that involves another person… expressing who they are through color, light and shadow, blurs and smears and smudges without being shackled by the necessity of producing a conventionally recognizable representation of them.  It makes me sad that so many people recognize their own beauty only through retouched, smooth and conventionally shot and lit images.

What does mobile photography/art mean to you?

It means freedom and spontaneity. Anyone can create mobile art at anytime.  Mobile art is democratic and it is a way for people of all backgrounds and from all over the world to engage productively, meaningfully and (mostly) peacefully.

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Joanne Carter, creator of the world’s most popular mobile photography and art website—— TheAppWhisperer platform has been a pivotal cyberspace for mobile artists of all abilities to learn about, to explore, to celebrate and to share mobile artworks. Joanne’s compassion, inclusivity, and humility are hallmarks in all that she does, and is particularly evident in the platform she has built. In her words, “We all have the potential to remove ourselves from the centre of any circle and to expand a sphere of compassion outward; to include everyone interested in mobile art, ensuring every artist is within reach”, she has said. Promotion of mobile artists and the art form as a primary medium in today’s art world, has become her life’s focus. She has presented lectures bolstering mobile artists and their art from as far away as the Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea to closer to her home in the UK at Focus on Imaging. Her experience as a jurist for mobile art competitions includes: Portugal, Canada, US, S Korea, UK and Italy. And her travels pioneering the breadth of mobile art includes key events in: Frankfurt, Naples, Amalfi Coast, Paris, Brazil, London. Pioneering the world’s first mobile art online gallery - has extended her reach even further, shipping from London, UK to clients in the US, Europe and The Far East to a global group of collectors looking for exclusive art to hang in their homes and offices. The online gallery specialises in prints for discerning collectors of unique, previously unseen signed limited edition art. Her journey towards becoming The App Whisperer, includes (but is not limited to) working for a paparazzi photo agency for several years and as a deputy editor for a photo print magazine. Her own freelance photographic journalistic work is also widely acclaimed. She has been published extensively both within the UK and the US in national and international titles. These include The Times, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Popular Photography & Imaging, dpreview, NikonPro, Which? and more recently with the BBC as a Contributor, Columnist at Vogue Italia and Contributing Editor at LensCulture. Her professional photography has also been widely exhibited throughout Europe, including Italy, Portugal and the UK. She is currently writing several books, all related to mobile art and is always open to requests for new commissions for either writing or photography projects or a combination of both. Please contact her at: [email protected]

One Comment

  • Fiona

    Great interview. So much of what you said resonated with me. I’m loving those beach images – the light, the style. And I would love to see you do some abstract portraits as you described! So refreshing! Thank you for sharing. Now I’m off to see if I can track Robin down on instagram, lol.