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‘Cut From the Same Cloth’: Shepherd professor to discuss book of international photography

By Staff | Mar 6, 2020


SHEPHERDSTOWN — Every spring semester, Laurie Cohen travels from her home in Chicago, Ill., to teach economics classes to students at Shepherd University. This is just one of the many ways she enjoys traveling, as she also spends as much time as possible on international travel.

On her trips to Europe, Asia, Africa and beyond, Cohen has taken hundreds of photographs of people she has seen.

“I started doing photography many years ago, when I went to Africa – back in the 1970s,” Cohen said, mentioned she funded her travels through her work as a 30-year commodity trader in the Chicago Stock Exchange. “I was just a tourist taking photos, and I got very interested in how people dressed, how they moved, how they interacted with each other, their gesticulations. From there, I decided I wanted to start photographing people. I spent a lot of my money traveling around the world to photograph people.

“I am an economist by training, and when the 2008 financial crisis hit, seven years later I retired after 30 years from being a commodity trader,” Cohen said, mentioning the Great Recession inspired her to travel more. “I was interested in visiting places that had experienced a lot of the economic decline. I went to all of these small towns to see what their life was like. I went through Mississippi and West Virginia, and found that the people in Mississippi were similar to the people in West Virginia.”

After looking at the photographs that she had taken over the years, Cohen started to notice similarities between many of the people captured in her work. She decided to publish a book of her photography, placing the photographs that resembled each other, facing together, so viewers could see the similarities for themselves.

“In this book, I have photographs that juxtapose people from all over the world, who are doing the same thing on opposite sides of the world,” Cohen said. “Once you leave your comfort zone, you get to see how people are very similar in the ways they do things, compared to the way people do things where you live.”

Cohen will be giving a book discussion and signing at Four Seasons Books on Saturday at 5 p.m.