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Nadia Lee Cohen: Untitled (detail)

Work / Photography

Embracing the uncanny with photographer Nadia Lee Cohen (NSFW)

“Inspiration comes from cinema and cinematic photographers,” Nadia Lee Cohen, the 24-year-old photographer whose vibrant pseudo-sinister work has been ricocheting around the internet of late, tells us. “Anything focusing around suburbia with dark undertones usually has me sold.”

Working predominantly with women, Nadia builds elaborate, kitsch tableaux out of scenes ranging from immaculately manicured lawns to wooden-walled cabins, but her choice of subjects “comes down to the fact that they’re just more fun to dress up,” she says. “I’m really into heavy melodramatic make-up and costume so I feel a little more restricted with men. Unless they’re drag queens of course, I love drag queens. Aside from that; I do enjoy working with men, I just tend to make them look like sweaty perverts when I do.”

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Nadia Lee Cohen: Untitled

Her recent projects include a series called 100 Naked Women, a collection of nude or semi-nude images in which her subjects proudly bear their uncensored bodies, which she hopes will culminate in a book to be published early next year. The idea for the project began with a mental block that had lasted a couple of months, she says: “I needed to embark upon a lengthy series that would carry me through it. During that time I shot one of my friends naked, as she had just split with her boyfriend and wanted a photograph that made her feel good about herself. I saw how liberated she seemed after the shoot, and this really was the initial driving force for creating the rest of the project.

“The naked book was also a response to what is happening right now with online censorship,” Nadia continues, responding to a question about Instagram movements such as #freethenipple. “I felt compelled to create a project where the females involved were not restricted at all in how much of their bodies they chose to reveal. It’s important for me to create a rapport with my models so that they feel comfortable enough in front of the lens to be the authors of their own performances.”

“I’m really into heavy melodramatic make-up and costume so I feel a little more restricted with men. Unless they’re drag queens of course, I love drag queens. Aside from that; I do enjoy working with men, I just tend to make them look like sweaty perverts when I do.”

Nadia Lee Cohen

Her work bears strong parallels to Cindy Sherman’s carefully constructed self portraits, and almost grotesquely saturated billboard adverts, but Nadia maintains that her photographs pertain more to the uncanny than to a fantasy. “I wouldn’t describe the images as fantastical,” she says. “I endeavour to make the sets and characters recognisable; then introduce something which intercepts the familiar and creates a mood that suggests something is a little ‘off’. I would never want to take away the familiarity of the images, as that’s how an audience can relate to their content.”

A self portrait series is next, along with a few short films to accompany her photographic work, making Nadia’s portfolio a remarkably evolved one for somebody only a year out of an MA in Fashion Photography at the London College of Fashion. We’re anticipating great things.

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Nadia Lee Cohen: Untitled

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Nadia Lee Cohen: Untitled

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Nadia Lee Cohen: Untitled

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Nadia Lee Cohen: Untitled