“Leonard Cohen was a monument” Tony Vaccaro Talks About His Iconic Leonard Cohen Photos – Nashville 1968

Although Tony Vaccaro (Tony Vaccaro Studio) took these photos of Leonard Cohen nearly 50 years ago (a few months after Songs of Leonard Cohen, his first album, was released at the end of 1967), his ardent recall of and enthusiasm about this shoot are clearly evident even over the telephone.

Keep in mind that Tony Vaccaro’s first photographic career was as  renowned  combat photographer in World War II, after which he went on to work in Europe for the State Department and for the newspaper Stars and Stripes. After the war, he was a staff photographer for Look, Life, and Venture as well contributing pictures to Time and Newsweek and serving as chief photographer for Flair. He shot such luminaries as Sophia Loren, John F Kennedy, Bertrand Russell, Marcello Mastroianni, Frank Lloyd Wright, Georgia O’Keefe, Stirling Moss, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jackson Pollock, Peter Sellers, and many, many more.

Yet, that trip to Nashville to shoot photos of Leonard Cohen on behalf of Look magazine (the photos were published in Songs Sacred and Profane by Ira Mothner in the June 10, 1969 issue of Look magazine) stands out. Vaccaro has a distinct memory of details such as walking early in the morning to his appointment with Leonard and serendipitously meeting hm en route walking someone else’s dog. He also recalls that Leonard “was simple and personal. We talked about his girlfriend in Greece [Marianne].” He goes on on:

The world didn’t mean much to him. He was only interested in the music.

Leonard Cohen was a monument. He possessed great humanity. That was my interest in him.

Vaccaro, in fact, lists Leonard Cohen as “one of the four or five greatest people I have photographed.” This evaluation becomes even more impressive when one learns that Tony Vaccaro rejected assignments to photograph certain celebrities, naming as examples two entertainment icons he felt were “phonies.”

The photo atop this post was taken on a Nashville car lot as Leonard searched for a car to purchase.

The photo below, showing Leonard prone on the grass, was taken after the photographer rolled down an incline and, as Tony Vaccaro tells it, Leonard followed “like a child, he rolled over and over. We were having a ball.”

Note: A selection of Tony Vaccaro’s photos, including one of his Leonard Cohen images, is currently on exhibition at Santa Fe’s Monroe Gallery (112 Don Gaspar; Santa Fe NM).

The Look magazine article in which photos from this shoot appeared is shown below.

See more of Tony Vaccaro’s work at Tony Vaccaro Studio 

Leonard Cohen Natural Leaf Sun Guard: Coldstream, Australia – 2009

I’m grateful to J.S. Carenza III, Leif Bodnarchuk, and Chris Bynum, whose comments thread on a Facebook post of mine finally answered my long pondered query, “What the heck is that on Leonard’s nose in that photo?” (The photo was taken Jan 23, 2009 in Coldstream, Australia by J.S. Carenza III).

It turns out it’s one of several sun blocks for the nose improvised by the Canadian singer-songwriter-poet-icon-wannabe Ron Popeil.

Leif Bee I remember this… LC wore a slip of paper over his nose to keep it from getting burnt. He may have done this a few times, and once it may have been a €20 note!

Chris Bynum I remember him doing the trick with the paper a couple of times. He had a specific way that he would make his nose shield so that he could protect his nose from the sun.

J.S. Carenza III Chris Bynum On more than one occasion a random leaf may have been involved, I will have to dig for photographic proof.

Compare Leonard’s creation with an analogous commercial product displayed below.

“Look, look who is there …” Josiane Calamel Meets Leonard Cohen

“I was so young and already fascinated” Josiane Calamel

By the time Josiane Calamel attended the March 9, 1980 Leonard Cohen concert at the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne (that’s Leonard leaving the venue in the photo above), she was indeed “already fascinated” with the Canadian singer-songwriter.


Josiane, who had then only recently moved to Australia with her husband and young son from her native France, would also see Leonard perform live in Melbourne in May 1985 and Feb 5, 2009. But it would be 2010, when she and her husband traveled back to France to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, before Josiane would meet Leonard face to face.

Josiane and her husband, who already had tickets for the Sept 19, 2010 Strasbourg concert, were sightseeing a couple of days before the show when they stopped for a drink at Place Kléber (the central square of Strasbourg). Josiane reports what happened next:

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A Portrait Of Leonard Cohen’s Stage Presence – At Soundcheck

This striking, gorgeous image depicting Leonard Cohen’s intensity at a routine pre-concert rehearsal goes far to explain the impact his performances had on audiences.

Credit Due Department: This photo, taken at soundcheck (either Dec 15 or 16, 2012) on the stage of the sumptuous Wang Theatre in Boston, is from Sharon Robinson’s Facebook page. Originally posted Dec 23, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric