Jack Cohen

This month, we spoke to member Jack Cohen. Jack works in venture capital and is also a professional photographer. We talked about his work in both industries and the ways they intersect.

Image Courtesy: Jack Cohen

Tell me a little bit about your background and what led you to the venture capital world.

I graduated from Colby College in 2015 and joined Blue Apron. I always had an entrepreneurial side to me, so joining a startup right out of college felt really appealing. I ran their social media, content, and community for 2 years, and grew the Blue Apron social community from 75,000 fans to over 2 million.

When FirstMark reached out to me, I was intrigued. I had always been interested in venture capital, but I wasn’t sure it would be the right fit. From the outside looking in, venture capital seemed strictly focused on number crunching and data mining, and I wasn’t deeply passionate about spending my days analyzing data. But I realized that while data is a critical part of any venture capital firm, there was a larger opportunity to flex my entrepreneurial thought into action.

The work I do at FirstMark is on the Platform team, which is responsible for the firm’s portfolio and community-facing initiatives. We create a set of additional tools and post-investment support to ensure the portfolio’s continued success. FirstMark differs from other firms as we take a very active approach of connecting founders with experts and getting into the trenches with entrepreneurs.

I find that at the core of venture capital, what drives success is being curious about other industries, and with that I see many parallels to photography.

Image Courtesy: Jack Cohen

That’s really interesting. How does your venture capital work support and intersect with your photography?

I think the two industries are very interconnected, and venture capital and photography have been a nice marriage of my two curiosities.

I started photographing at about 9 or 10, and a major influence on me was my family’s photography collection of my childhood. As I would look at the breadth and depth of the photos my parents were taking of me and my sister growing up, I realized that photography was the medium I wanted to use to explore the world around me.

The way I view photography is by looking at iconic scenes, streets, or landmarks and asking myself, “what is the perspective change that I can implement that breathes new life into this same scene?” I find that my curiosity, persistence in finding a way to make a shot work, and different perspective all translate into and speak to my work in VC.

I love that you’ve been photographing since 9 or 10. When did you begin to focus on photography more seriously?

I started to professionalize my photography work towards the end of my college career. I only took two academic courses in photography, so most of my learning has come from workshops and learning from within the photography community.  In the last 5-6 years since I’ve been in New York, the photography community has become continually more inclusive and expansive. As more people look for resources to self teach, there’s a whole rank of new photographers coming into greater prominence. Willem Verbeeck has been a great inspiration for me.

There is so much happening. I find that despite the pandemic, there are more ways than ever to explore New York through photography. That gives me hope.

Image Courtesy: Jack Cohen

Your artistic side doesn’t just extend to photography. I know that last year you wrote for Medium for one hundred days, straight. Tell me a little more about that.

My grandmother sent me an article about Fotografiska and we went to the museum together, as it’s a bit of a ritual for us to explore new cultural scenes together. The moment I walked in it felt like home, and I had to become a member. I loved the energy of the museum and that it did not just feature famous photographers, but those that were up and coming and lesser known within the industry. I love how as you navigate through the museum you’re nudged through very different works of wide-ranging photographers, which may not seem connected, but have more to do with one another than you thought at first glance. I think I went through the first set of exhibitions close to a dozen times.

Image Courtesy: Jack Cohen

Was there any exhibition that particularly resonated with you?

I was deeply moved by two artists – Tawny Chatmon and Helene Schmitz, and they each resonated for different reasons.

I was floored by Tawny Chatmon’s portraits. The way she featured strong Black women and their children so regally was incredibly impactful and powerful, and I loved the tactical nature of the portraits through the gold overlay.

I also loved the work of Helene Schmitz. I have traveled to Iceland (which is like Hawaii for photographers!), and I loved how Schmitz captured the landscape in a very different way through exposing the scars caused by manufacturing. As humans we can be very myopic, and her work was a powerful and clear message that something needs to change.

Thank you, Jack, for taking the time to share and speak with us. You can get in touch with Jack on Instagram and Twitter and check out more of his work by visiting his website.

We’ll be hosting a Member Spotlight every month and would love to hear from you. Please contact us at membership.ny@fotografiska.com to be featured.