Inside Nadia Lee Cohen’s Sensual and Cinematic New Exhibition

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Nadia Lee Cohen Women photographer Ted Stansfield AnOther
Brooke Candy, East Hollywood, Los AngelesPhotography by Nadia Lee Cohen. Courtesy of IDEA

Opening at Jeffrey Deitch gallery in Los Angeles on May 22, the artist’s first American solo exhibition will display works from her wildly successful photo books Women and Hello, My Name Is …

Nadia Lee Cohen is set to open her first American solo exhibition later this month. Housed at the Jeffrey Deitch gallery’s LA location, the show will feature works from the British-born, Los Angeles-based photographer’s two sold-out monographs – Women, which was released in 2020, and compiles over 100 sensual mise-en-scenes of semi-fictional female characters; and Hello, My Name is …, which was released last year, and saw Lee Cohen shapeshift into 33 characters inspired by found nametags. The show will also display an “immersive installation” featuring never-before-seen video works.

The immensely beautiful book Women was the culmination of six years’ work, and was mostly created in secret while Lee Cohen was working full-time as a music video director. The artist’s love for cinema is felt in the monograph’s 100 partially-nude portraits, each of which simmers with the drama of a suggested narrative. Shot in Lee Cohen’s rich and vivid style, the book features, among its myriad of women, a few recognisable faces – such as Alexa Demie, Brooke Candy, Violet Chachki, Georgia May Jagger, and even Lee Cohen herself. “I understand first-hand the vulnerability felt in posing,” she told AnOther of her decision to feature herself, which she says only added to the personal nature of the project.

“On a personal level, some [of the women featured] are extremely close friends, others are people I have only met once with the intention of photographing them for the book; together they are all individuals that I admire in one way or another,” says Lee Cohen of the women she shot for the project. “On a fictional level I feel incredibly connected to their respective characters. The catalyst behind these imagined scenarios were the models themselves, in effect they were the initial spark and inspiration for the birth and progression of each character.”

Released just one year later, Hello, My Name is … conjures a similarly cinematic world as Women, though it has a lighter tongue-in-cheek mood. Using hair, make-up and full production prosthetics, Lee Cohen deftly transforms herself into 33 characters dreamed up from nametags that she came across and collected over the years. Among its personalities are a portly fading cowboy, Jeff; young film photography heartthrob, Michael; and smoking, snow-haired Cheryl. “There’s more than a hint of obsession in what she does,” says Paul Reubens, aka Pee-Wee Herman, in the book’s introduction. “A lot of thought has gone into the creation of these people … when I look at every one of these portraits, I want to know what drew her to each of these characters.”

Nadia Lee Cohen: Hello, My Name Is … is on view at Jeffrey Deitch gallery in Los Angeles from 22 May – 9 July, 2022.