Against a cultural backdrop of tremendous interest in street photography in the 1970s as practiced by Friedlander, Winogrand, Metzker, Papageorge, Levitt, et al., one photographer’s work stood out for me as remarkably unique and disorienting: Mark Cohen. This photograph, Untitled (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), which I first saw at his solo exhibition at MoMA and later on the cover of The New York Times Magazine, was simultaneously so familiar and strange. It had the extreme specificity and descriptive qualities that I love about photographs: every hair of the girl was so clearly described. It also looked like a great transformation had taken place. That big sphere blocking her face must be a bubble but it looked so much like steel. And then there is the question of that hand. And the feeling this might be a collage and knowing it is not.
It is a picture that announces all sorts of wonderful possibilities of photography and that is why I like it so much. Though it is a document of what occurred in front of the camera it really declares the glory of timing and photographic transformation in the making of pictures. It is also a picture whose very essence is a performance for the camera spurred on by the presence of the photographer. It is so mysterious, so full of narrative inclinations distilled into such a compact and elegant form. Why would anyone want to do anything but photography?!
After earning degrees in biology, chemistry, and molecular genetics (at Harvard), David Goldes became a photographer in 1977. His work is included in the collections of the Whitney Museum, Walker Art Center, MoMA, and the Art Institute of Chicago. He is represented by Yossi Milo Gallery in New York, and since 1986, Goldes has been on the faculty at MCAD in the Media Arts Department. (Photo of Goldes: The Bakken Museum)