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Photography exhibition celebrates Frick Park in the midst and wake of COVID-19

A photo of trees.
Brian Cohen
"These places where I go back and take the same thing multiple times," Cohen explained while pointing to one of the images to be displayed in his exhibition at the Frick Environmental Center. "Because the park is constantly changing and I just find those things interesting."

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will host a three-month exhibition at the Frick Environmental Center featuring the photography of Squirrel Hill resident and artist Brian Cohen.

The show is titled “Refugium,” which means “an area in which a population of organisms can survive through a period of unfavorable conditions.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Cohen explained, Frick Park became a refuge for him and many people. He said he became acquainted with the park in unanticipated ways.

"We walked and ran the trails in greater numbers, dodging and weaving between masked strangers," Cohen recalled.

"Yoga classes and religious services were held in the meadows. The off-leash area became crowded with COVID puppies and their humans.

“It was an escape. It was a safe place. It was a place to be able to take a deep breath,” Cohen said.

“And that's what this exhibit is, both an acknowledgment of that, and a way of saying thank you to all of the people who make that place possible.”

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The exhibition features photos Cohen captured on his frequent Frick Park visits between 2020 and 2023. The London native resisted the oversimplification of “landscape photography” as a gallery description, but admitted the exhibition will be a departure from his typical artistic ventures, which heavily feature contemporary portraiture.

“This is the first genuinely, full-throttle landscape project that I have ever done, and that was lovely, and it enabled me to unashamedly channel some of my favorite photographers in the process,” Cohen said, pointing to artists like Andre Kertesz, Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks, and Elliott Porter.

The exhibition kicks off Thursday, Jan. 25, with an opening night celebration from 6–8 p.m.

Glynis comes from a long line of Pittsburgh editors and has 16 years of experience reporting, producing and editing in the broadcasting industry. She holds a Master's in Education and a Bachelor of Arts from West Virginia University. She also spent a year with West Virginia University as an adjunct journalism professor.