Featured Artist: Kingsport photographer/videographer Matt Cohen is on a mission to show off a more "beautiful" side of the Tri-Cities

Jonathan Roberts • Jun 17, 2019 at 4:34 PM

Whether it’s photography or videography, Kingsport’s Matt Cohen is determined to show off the “beautiful” side of an area that’s oft-criticized as being “too small” or “dying.”

Cohen is originally from Albany, Georgia, but he made his way to the Tri-Cities in 1990, when he was 8 years old. He’s resided in Kingsport ever since, and now runs his own lawn care business, which he says helps fund his photography and videography businesses. 

“Family comes first” for him, though, and while he loves photography and videography, he doesn’t hesitate to choose between that and his family.

Still, he’s no slouch behind a viewfinder. Last year, he was chosen to have his work featured at a “ RAW, Natural Born Artists” gallery in Nashville. That honor is bestowed upon just 60 Tennesseans, and it includes artists across all mediums — not just photography — and he said it’s that type of recognition that motivates him and tells him he’s more than a capable photographer.

Perhaps more importantly though, is the fact that he’s a talented photographer bringing light to a city that doesn’t get it in the same way Johnson City and Bristol do. 

“I just enjoy this area,” he said.

Matt Cohen Briefly:

One lens to use: Canon EF 24-70mm
Current camera: Canon 80D
Favorite season to shoot in: None, “but I don’t like shooting in the winter” because of the cold.
One place you want to shoot in: Savannah, Georgia
Dream camera: Sony A7III, but “it’s hard to say because they evolve so fast”

What got you into photography?

Skateboarding. Growing up, just looking at old skateboarding magazines and watching skateboard videos got me into doing videography stuff. I didn’t really know I was into photography, I was just looking at the pictures and wondering: “How’d they capture that?” “How’d they get those light streaks?” I was always curious about it.

What’s your favorite part of being a photographer?

It’s a creative outlet. I’ve always searched for creative outlets in life, skateboarding was a creative outlet in my life for about two decades. I’ve just always searched for a way to express my creative side and I feel that with a cameras it’s the best way possible, for me.

What’s your favorite photograph you’ve ever taken?

My favorite photograph, is a photo of my youngest son — I think he was three in that photo; he’s a model, he’s perfect at this stuff. Just the facial expression he has, he’s surrounded by red leaves, there’s dust sparkling in the photo in front of him, he’s rim-lit perfect. It’s just ... I love that photo.

What are some of your biggest challenges as a photographer?

Finding a style to stick with. A lot of people say you need to find your niche and stick with that, and I find that hard because I love shooting everything and videos. A lot of people say you have to choose video or photos, that you can’t do both, but I don’t want to put limits on it because I enjoy all of it.

How important is it for you to show off another the city you live in?

Just hearing so many people talk about how “there’s nothing to offer in Kingsport” or “the Tri-Cities is a boring area, a dying area” just any negative talk about the area and I think it’s a beautiful area and I think I can help show that with my photos.

You can find Cohen and his work on Instagram (@mattcohen.photography), Facebook (@MattCohenPhotography), and he’s going to be starting a YouTube channel in the near future.