Mark Cohen's intrusive street photography that takes a very close look at his Pennsylvania hometown

Boy In Yellow Shirt Smoking, 1976 © Mark Cohen. Via Creative Boom submission. All images courtesy of the artist.

Mark Cohen is best known for his gritty, close-up street photography which started in his hometown, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, when he was only 12 years old.

He later came to the conclusion that all the inspiration he needed was in his own industrial backyard – Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, a historic industrialised region in the northeast of the US state.

Inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Cohen photographs his subjects uncomfortably even audaciously close. The intrusive style pays off as his images are seemingly natural, a true snapshot of a moment capturing an elderly woman in a headscarf smoking a cigarette or a young girl walking self-consciously and deep in thought.

The vulnerability and intimacy of these subjects are due to his ability to crop by getting in close, a behaviour that would intermittently get Cohen in trouble. As Cohen says: “A lot of times I had trouble with the cops because if you walk into somebody’s yard and start taking pictures of a rope that’s sitting there, they’ll call the police.”

His works became particularly successful in the 1970s which saw him exhibit at New York’s MoMA.

This summer Just Outside is an exhibition at Leica Gallery London that is quintessential Cohen and features a selection of his works throughout the years, including the acclaimed photograph 'Boy in Yellow Shirt Smoking'. The black and white and colour images from his hometown evolve around intimate moments between a group of kids or slices of faces up close and personal. Weird and wonderful angles are achieved through his nimble balletic moves and quick-as-a-flash snapping.

Just Outside runs until 1 September at the Leica Gallery London. All prints from the exhibition will be for sale and for the first time, all black and white prints from the show will be available to purchase in larger sizes.

Leopard Collar, 1974 © Mark Cohen

Leopard Collar, 1974 © Mark Cohen

Young Limbs, 1981 © Mark Cohen

Young Limbs, 1981 © Mark Cohen

Woman With Red Lips Smoking, 1975 © Mark Cohen

Woman With Red Lips Smoking, 1975 © Mark Cohen

Upside Down Girl, 1974 © Mark Cohen

Upside Down Girl, 1974 © Mark Cohen