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Nov 7, 2023 by Marc Peruzzi

Meet a Creative: Lee Cohen


Home Base / Alta, Utah 

Activities / Skiing, mountain biking, climbing, whitewater.

Why Lee

It’s easy to make the case that Lee Cohen is the best powder skiing photographer that ever was. Since the mid-1980s, he’s documented powder skiing’s evolution from cult to cultural phenomenon. When it comes to getting powder, light, and athlete in synchrony he’s a wizard. But success in one part of a career shouldn’t be seen as a limitation elsewhere. Lee is a multi-talented adventure photographer with the portfolio to prove it. “I constantly get pigeonholed as a powder skiing photographer,” he says. “But that’s because I had the misfortune of living at Alta, Utah my entire adult life and skiing a ridiculous amount of powder.”

Lee's son Sam Cohen grew up in the Alta freeskiing program and is now one of dozens of top athletes Lee shoots with.

Lee’s brother had a dark room as a kid so he had some working knowledge of the craft, but it became his career the old-fashioned way—shooting friends ripping Alta, his adopted home hill. After emigrating to Utah, Lee bought a $484 Nikon F3—state of the art at the time—and submitted shots on spec. Because his mind excels with numbers he was able to memorize exposure settings back when it mattered. He also has an innate eye for composition, which isn’t universal. Nowadays, with smarter cameras that provide instant feedback, action photography is easier, but “nothing beats nailing it exposure and composition wise,” says Lee.

On location in Kamchatka.
And back at home on the Alta Bypass Road.

Early on, Lee’s work showed up in the magazines: SKISkiing, and Powder, plus commercial contracts for the biggest outdoor brands in winter and summer. Today, he’s more selective in the contracts he takes. New clients must understand quality. “Mediocrity has become a way of the world,” says Lee. “There’s an overdose of imagery. But at the same time there’s amazing photography happening right now. The challenge is that the great photography can get lost in the sauce.”

You don't get untracked powder shots or images like this by keeping banker's hours. Alta, Utah.

“Success can be a bit of a curse, and that’s true with Lee. When I was the editor of Skiing he was our powder guy because he’s everyone’s powder guy. But when I cofounded Mountain he shot whitewater, mountain biking, backpacking, and climbing. I once asked him how he avoided being pigeonholed and he said he doesn’t bother trying. ‘When I get those jobs I deliver the goods,’ he said.”​

Marc Peruzzi Writer, editor, Hence content chief.
Like many Alta locals, Lee follows the snowmelt in summer.

Specialized Skills

Anyone skier should understand this: You can’t schedule powder. Lee captures the shots he does because he has the Wasatch dialed, can tap into dozens if not hundreds of athletes on short notice, and strikes when snow and light align over an entire winter.

Flyfishing photography is also about capturing an athletic form in a landscape.

What’s Next:

Lee is at a point in his career where he takes the work he wants and leaves the rest, but he plans to offer his expertise as a brand consultant. Look for those future offerings on the Hence platform.

Photographers migrate to the Red Bull Rampage each year. The athleticism in most of Lee's imagery is more approachable by humans.