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As the world went into lockdown, New York-based photographer Jeremy Cohen adapted. He shot portraits from his terrace that were picked up by an international title, and even set up a rooftop date that went viral. He speaks to us about photography and love in the time of a pandemic. By Bayar Jain
1. You famously found love while self-isolating, on a rooftop adjacent to yours. How did you manage the dates?
When I’m restricted to being inside a box, in this case my apartment, I find that it can inspire creativity. My friend, Sam Morrison, originally thought of connecting with people via a drone. After I saw Tori Cignarella [dancing on a rooftop in the Bushwick neighbourhood, now a viral video], I knew I had to give his idea a shot.
2. Do you think you would have met Tori had it not been for this forced isolation?
I don’t think so. While in quarantine, I’ve been craving human connection. And I felt like I should try out Morrison’s idea. In other circumstances, we would probably just have waved at each other and left it there.
3. You’ve been doing portraits for some time now. How has the current situation changed your work?
When I pitched the idea for a rooftop quarantine photo series, my friends lent me the 100-400mm lens. I wanted to be respectful of social distancing, but also wanted to keep creating. This [photography] is my happy medium. Usually when I’m taking people’s portraits, I’m used to being up close. This time, I’m far away.
4. Any tips for the readers on making the most out of this quarantine time?
I think now is a really good time for everyone to appreciate the simple and mundane aspects of life. It makes one realise the things we take for granted. Look at this time as a way to do something from home that you hadn’t gotten the chance to do earlier since life was so busy. Maybe try learning something you’ve always wanted to. Also, tell your friends and family how much you love them.
5. How do you think this period will change the lives of photographers?
Although a lot of photographers are out of work now, I like to think of this as a good time to start a new personal project, go through photo archives, or even finally sit down and create videos that I’d been stalling due to time constraints and the daunting nature of learning video-editing. With all the time in my hands, I can finally go through all my footage!
6. Once the quarantine period ends and travel bans are lifted, what would be the first place you go to for your next project?
There are so many places I want to travel to, but if I had to pick one, I’d love to go back to the South Island of New Zealand for some epic nature trails.
7. Your favourite spot in New York City?
To be honest, I don’t have a favourite spot. For me, photographing in New York is all about capturing people. I take my camera everywhere and meet interesting people in different areas. I just hope the lighting is always good.
8. What are the three things a first-timer should do in NYC?
Take a leisurely walk or bike across the Williamsburg Bridge during sunset; walk across the Brooklyn Bridge during sunrise; and eat a slice of Joe’s Pizza (joespizzanyc.com) while you walk through Washington Square Park.