The joint releases of powerHouse Books' There Is No Eye: John Cohen Photographs and Smithsonian Folkways' CD There Is No Eye: Music For Photographs, recordings of musicians photographed by John Cohen, bring together several threads of John Cohen's work over the past fifty years. Although he is best known as a musician, his photographs and films have been recognized by museums, galleries and at film festivals worldwide. His campaign for the recognition of traditional roots/folk music has led to the production of fifteen films, hundreds of photographs and sound recordings. He has also made more than twenty recordings with the New Lost City Ramblers, along with related articles, liner notes and interviews about music.
His work crosses many disciplines - both in the arts and sciences, and has been seen on NOVA PBS, at experimental film series, art museums, anthropology film festivals, ethnomusicology conferences, visual anthropology classes, Appalachian studies, the politics of poverty classes, and Andean music & textile exhibitions.
From the late 1950s on, he was involved with the emerging Art world in New York City, and photographed Robert Frank's production of the film Pull My Daisy about the beat generation- including Jack Kerouac & Alan Ginsberg. He also documented the emergence of Pop Art, and the Cedar Bar, homeplace of the Abstract Expressionist painters. He was part of the music scene from which Bob Dylan emerged in Greenwich Village during the 1960's. After 1960, the major focuses of his work include Old Time Music (from the Appalachians) and Peruvian projects. He has filmed, photographed and recorded Andean music in Peru, and made an early study and collection of contemporary Andean textiles.
John Cohen's body of work has been recognized in a wide range of fields: his photographs are in major museum collections and publications, his award winning films have been shown on PBS and BBC and at festivals worldwide. The sound recordings of the New Lost City Ramblers have received several Grammy nominations, and, along with his field recordings, have influenced many musicians - including Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Ry Cooder - and shaped the old time fiddle music revival.
John Cohen's work invites interpretation. Although it has the appearance of a "documentary style" it reflects his own viewpoint as a visual artist. That his body of work is called cross-disciplinary, and he has been labeled a "Renaissance man," doesn't detract from the perception of his art as something which emanates directly from his own personal vision.