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Q&A with Photographer Jeremy Cohen

Jeremy Cohen is a professor of media studies at Penn State University. His work will be exhibited at New Rochelle High School from July through September. Professor Cohen's photography was most recently featured in Penn Stater , the school's alumni publication, and he has generously taken the time to speak with The Daily New Rochelle .

Tell me a little about your photography collection—where did you take the photographs, was it all done in the same location?

"I’ve been taking underwater photographs for several decades, and starting with film cameras—that ancient art—and I’ve shot all over the world, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, throughout the Caribbean, Latin America. Anywhere I can find a way to get there, I’m delighted to take pictures. Many are recent, but several are within the last decade. They’re from the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, and the Pacific off Ecuador. Some are coral reef shots, the soft corals of Fiji; some are taken in the Galapagos. It’s really a variety of images trying to capture a large picture."

What kind of equipment did you use for these photographs?

"A couple of them were shot with good old-fashioned film, which I then converted later to digital. But the overwhelming majority, I use digital cameras. In this collection, I used Olympus and Nikon, which I put inside a water-proof housing and then crossed my fingers that nothing will leak. The real trick these days is given all these changes for the air travel. I shoot with multiple underwater strobes and a variety of lenses ranging from wide-angle to macro lenses for mollusks and creatures."

Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into photography and your inspiration for this collection?

"I grew up in California and started wandering in the tide pools as a very young child. Started diving in 1966 and like many in my generation, I was inspired by Jack Gusto, whom I met as an undergraduate. I’ve always been in a love with capturing underwater images."

Is there an eco-message or environmental message attached to your collection?

"I hope all of them. And that is, the ways in which we use the resources of the ocean affect everyone in the world. And so, I’ve seen reefs that two decades ago were healthy and vibrant and today are fished out and barren. I’ve seen other reefs in which humans have used their intelligence to treat the ocean wisely, where the reefs continue to be beautiful and the fish populations healthy. The eco-message really is that, as we come to understand the consequences of what we do, we live up to our capacity to sustain the oceans and the planet."

Have you worked in other mediums—and if so, what is your favorite one? What is the most challenging?

"I can’t draw worth beans. I can’t draw a straight line. So photography has really been my primary mode of expression, though I also write. Photography is really my pride and joy."

Are you currently working on anything else?

"I’m getting ready for my next project, which is 11 months from now. My next project will be about 250 miles off shore, west of the tip off Baja California, and I’m going to photograph the giant manta rays as well as the sharks."

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