Whatever you do, do not mistake the title of this post as a diss.
The photographs taken by Joseph Henry Adam Kohl (1957 – 2002), and left on deposit here at MdHS by his friend Carl Clark, capture an era in the greatest sense of that cliche. Best, too, not to take the title too literally. The truth is we don’t yet know precisely how many eras are captured in this collection because Kohl, like many working photographers over the ages, did not leave records or dates that can be easily put together or determined. The assumption is that his work spans the 1980s, ’90s, and 2000s. The list of papers he shot for is staggering. It includes but is certainly not limited to The News American, The Afro-American, The Village Voice, Baltimore Business Journal, City Paper, Catholic Review, Easy Rider, and Recycling Times. He also shot for himself. Kohl died of leukemia in 2002 at age 44.
What Kohl did leave behind is a massive collection totaling 44 boxes of prints, Polaroids, negatives, and scattered ephemera that capture one of the widest ranges I’ve encountered in a Maryland photographer. If I had to guess, I’d compare it to the Paul Henderson Photo Collection and say there must be at least 10,000 images. The collection has sat untouched and mostly unmolested since it was left here in December 2003. There was an exhibit held at School 33 that year, but there seems to be little record of the show beyond this pamphlet:
I’ve been excited about Kohl’s collection since discovering it in the Thomas and Hugg storage basement as an intern back in 2006. The momentum and people power it would’ve taken to get the ball rolling on processing this collection were far beyond me, a lowly intern, back then, but I kept it tucked away as a dream project for the future. Well, the future it seems is now, or at least coming for Kohl’s collection in 2014. A few weeks ago I was contacted by Joe Giordano and Josh Sisk from the City Paper who were interested in Kohl because next year is the tenth anniversary of his passing. I don’t want to tip the hat of what they have planned, but I am confident it will be amazing.
I would like to let everyone know that MdHS will need your help in processing this collection. See someone you know in a photograph? Drop us a line at at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us. We’ll also be checking with local universities for interns to help with processing.
Please enjoy the following snippets and share them with your friends. (Joe Tropea)
Sources, further readings, and related images:
Joseph Kohl’s obituary in The Baltimore Sun by Jacques Kelly, March 8, 2002.
Joseph Kohl’s memorial in City Paper by Michael Yockel, March 13, 2002.
Memories, pictures, and other images from the Marble Bar can be found at Accelerated Decrepitude.
A documentary about the Marble Bar is or was in the works: The Marble Bar Documentary