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News / May 13, 2014

Canadian Photographer Lynne Cohen Dies at 69

Lynne Cohen proofing <em>Untitled (blowing curtains)</em> at Toronto Image Works, September 2009. Photo: Michael Mitchell. Lynne Cohen proofing Untitled (blowing curtains) at Toronto Image Works, September 2009. Photo: Michael Mitchell.

Canadian photographer Lynne Cohen, known for exacting and penetrating images of human environments, has died following an extended battle with lung cancer.

Cohen, based in Montreal, was originally diagnosed with cancer some three years ago, around the same time she won the inaugural $50,000 Scotiabank Photography Award.

Olga Korper Gallery, Cohen’s Toronto dealer for 14 years, issued a Facebook statement that notes, “we feel incredibly privileged to have worked with her and reveled in her tremendous character and passion for her work.”

Born in Racine, Wisconsin, on July 3, 1944, Cohen received her MFA from Eastern Michigan University, with a year spent at London’s Slade School of Fine Art. She started out as a sculptor and printmaker before moving into photography in the early 1970s.

Cohen began living and working in Canada in 1973, and she taught photography at the University of Ottawa from 1974 to 2005. In 2005, she also won a Governor General’s Award. Her work is more than 50 public collections, including those of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

In a 2011 interview with Canadian Art, Cohen said, “Someone who reviewed my work in the Village Voice in the 1980s suggested the photos were all set up in my studio. That was kind of nice in one way; in another way the reviewer had fallen in the trap. Welcome to Duchamp.”

In fact, Cohen’s eerie photographs were taken in found environments ranging from spas and laboratories to factories and military installations.

Later in that Canadian Art interview, Cohen added, “I once wrote about my work as being loaded with storytelling. Even if you know the work, it’s still always incredibly complicated. And why does it have to make sense? The images are pieces of a narrative puzzle that could be about anything. It’s totally absurd. Absurd, but it does tell a story. So the work goes back and forth; it is narrative and it isn’t.”

According to the Olga Korper Gallery statement, “out of respect for Lynne’s personal wishes, no funeral or memorial service will be held.”

Cohen leaves behind Andrew Lugg, her partner of nearly 50 years.