If you look closely enough at any given Binghamton University photo, you’ll find his name written at the bottom. You may have seen him around campus, present at every big event from University Fest to Spring Fling. While he has captured every moment from freshman move-in to graduation, few actually know the ubiquitous Jonathan Cohen — the University photographer responsible for documenting our stories. That’s why Release decided to capture his.
In his 20 years in the field, Cohen has worked for The New York Times, the Associated Press and the Washington Post. He’s also received acclaim by the National Press Photographers Association, the Eddie Adams Workshop and the Communications Association of the Southern Tier. In 2012, Cohen won first place in the photo-essay category from the University Photographers’ Association of America for his pictures of the September 2011 flood evacuation.
Cohen’s work has also influenced our country’s laws. His photo-essay “Staying Afloat,” published in The Courier, was widely cited after Louisiana passed legislation in 2002 to protect the local shrimping industry from foreign imports.
In 2005, after years of working as a photojournalist for The Courier, Cohen accepted his current job as the official photographer for BU.
“I am so lucky to have had that great college experience, and that’s why I work at a college now,” Cohen said. “Education is such a positive thing and I enjoy supporting what the University is trying to accomplish.”
Cohen takes the University’s “Daily Photo,” a once-a-day picture that gives viewers a glimpse of campus life, from basketball games to exhibits in Fine Arts. He advises students to wear BU apparel and smile a lot if they want to get into a daily photo, but he also says he enjoys the creative liberty that comes with his job and tries to take candid photos of students in action.
He says he finds it easy to capture the beauty of a place rarely described as such. Cohen often wakes up before sunrise to photograph buildings on campus, which he showed off enthusiastically mid-interview.
Cohen also finds beauty in the genuine emotions of his student subjects, especially at commencement, his favorite event to shoot.
“It’s such a positive event when the diverse student body gathers outside the Events Center, hugging and crying happy tears,” Cohen said. “Everything they have done, their stories that I have photographed, ends up at that point. It’s beautiful.”
Although Cohen makes a living taking pictures of other people, he is rarely photographed.
“People rarely take my picture, and when they do, I usually hate it,” Cohen said. “I take my own best picture.”
Thank god for #selfies.