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Lois Cohen

Work / Photography

Amsterdam-based photographer Lois Cohen’s “absurd” portraits

25-year-old Lois Cohen still lives in her birth town of Amsterdam, where, after a youth spent “obsessively drawing”, during her teen years, she found photography and “my whole life turned into obsessively taking pictures”. In the decade since, Lois’ work has transitioned from “super theatrical studio shots” to shooting portraits primarily on location. These days, Lois considers her work “a little less controlled, but the essence and amount of colours in my work stayed the same.”

“I like to combine elements that contradict each other, but at the same time tell a story by doing so,” she explains. “I always tend to make everything a little absurd, but still try to give the person I photograph lots of power and grace, no matter how weird or banal of a situation I put them in.”

Lois’ portraits reveal a finely-tuned eye for distinctive casting: her gaze reaches far beyond modelling agencies to permeate the vibrant fringes of Dutch society’s subcultures. “It’s not that hard when you have Facebook and Instagram – the world’s best modelling agencies – at your availability,” Lois explains. “That’s where I do most of my casting. I also don’t shy away from street casting. Besides that I’ve always been in between different scenes and subcultures, because of the way I grew up and different phases in nightlife. That’s how I know lots of different types of interesting people I can photograph.”

A great portrait, Lois reasons, happens “when there’s a right balance between the vision of the photographer and the character/attitude of the model, and that one is not dominating the other too much, but there’s a collaboration or clear connection between the one behind and in front of the camera even if it’s super staged.”

In particular, strong female figures tend to punctuate Lois’ work, so it’s unsurprising to hear that among her recent favourite projects was “definitely my graduation project in collaboration with stylist Indiana Roma Voss, which is an ode to the female warrior. My whole life I’ve been collecting images of bad ass women, such as heroines and warrior women from comic books and action movies, but I noticed they’re always made from a man’s perspective, which annoyed me, so I decided to kind of recreate these images from my own point of view. I partly shot it my hometown and partly in Los Angeles. When it’s finished I’m gonna release it as a calendar.”

Lois was recruited by Nike recently for an editorial conceptualised by Dutch streetwear brand Lack of Guidance to celebrate Netherlands’ hosting of the 12th UEFA European Women’s Championship which came out last week. “I loved the statement of Lack of Guidance to bring more attention and glory to the women’s football championship — which has always been broadly overshadowed by men’s football — by teaming up with Nike to make this kit for the playing team and promoting it with an editorial,” Lois explains. “Although at first I thought it was gonna be a challenge to make something really special out of something football and sportswear related, but once the the casting was settled, I knew we were gonna work it.”

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