Sharon Caplan Cohen: Renewal

Mill Valley resident and photographer, Sharon Caplan Cohen, tells her story of working with The Image Flow while she was creating the images for her show, Renewal. Sharon had been making flower Mandalas at her home and photographing them as a way of working through the grief of her mother’s death.

After my mother’s passing and many losses in my life,  I found myself in an existential crisis. Daily there was a sense of bewilderment, grief and pain. What emerged was a year long journey making three dimensional mandalas and photographing them. Mysteriously, they started illuminating my soul, when the outward world appeared dry and confusing. The photographs came to represent a journey of loss and resurrection. I was using a few photo labs in San Francisco.  I kept passing The Image Flow, usually when stopping into Ace Hardware. I started to pop in as I passed by, and was always impressed with how easy Stuart was to chat with and how knowledgable he was. Finally I had some prints made, I believe they included flowers, work that was to become the Mandala series eventually.

At some point I remember being blown away by a conversation with Matt and Stuart. They had one of my finished prints ready and told me how much they liked the Mandalas (at this point I had started using black velvet backgrounds and the circular mandala structure). In the best possible way, they gave me a lot of technical feedback that would bring my pictures up to another level.What struck me as so unusual is that Stuart and Matt took their own time to really look at my work, at what they were printing and discuss how they could  best support this project. It was an incredible feeling to receive that sort of insight and care from my printers! I think it was at that point I tapped into the fact that The Image Flow had a huge amount to offer.

At the time I was shooting with an older Canon 5d, (I now shoot with the 5d Mark 3). I did  want the experience of shooting with a digital Hasselblad so I rented The Image Flow’s and rented the big studio too. I’ve done this a few times now. The results have been fantastic for me. I really enjoyed it on a few levels. Originally, my intention was to shoot the mandalas with flat over head light, to have the colors and images ‘pop’.  Eventually, I wanted more  sculpted  light (as  I was seeing the Mandalas and my relationship to them differently). So in the  big studio I was using side window light and the diffusion of the parachute material. It was fun while shooting to welcome people as they walked into The Image Flow…. shooting this kind of still life can feel like living in a bubble and takes all day to set up. So it was a nice change for me.

I am really looking forward to exhibiting and sharing the Mandalas. Its a colorful exciting show. They are truly a labor of love and a constant internal and external evolving process. There will be flowers and mini Mandalas to play with at the show for those who like to play,  so bring your  iPhones and you can snap your own creation.

Her show at The O’Hanlon Center For The Arts will be opening May 7th. Artist reception from 6-8pm.

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