These photographs are part of a collection of vernacular photography Peter J. Cohen has accumulated over a period of close to twenty years. His focus has been primarily on snapshots, but he also collects studio photos, press prints, and other forms of photographic imagery.
Cohen’s collection of approximately 20,000 images spans many different subjects, with pieces dating from around 1890 to 1980. He started collecting at flea markets in NYC, but has also searched for and purchased photographs in London, Paris, Berlin, Hong Kong, and Brazil. The collection consists primarily of black and white works, with a smaller selection of color pieces included.
Initially, Cohen collected simply what he liked, and the collection formed organically. After a decade of collecting, he began to approach the snapshots with a more curatorial hand, separating images into specific genres. These include Double Exposures, Aviation, Cornfields, People On Top of Mountains, Trains, and Dangerous Women, to name a few. Large selections of Cohen's collection are now in the permanent collections of MOMA and the Art Institute of Chicago. Opening October 29, 2011, The Art Institute will be presenting a show called "The Three Graces", featuring more than 500 of Cohen's photographs of female trios.