Photographer Carves a Niche

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Godfather-esque music lilts over the stairwell as a Brooklyn craftsman ascends the steps to his dimly lit workbench. This is how filmmaker Dustin Cohen introduces us to his newest character.

There’s something innately seductive and cinematic about watching a video that slides from soft to razor sharp images in videos like Cohen’s. And aspiring filmmakers don’t need the operating budgets of the Kony 2012 team to create something that hundreds of thousands will watch.

A great eye and a DSLR can get the job done.

Cohen’s most recent video was posted March 26 and follows the work of watchmaker David Sokosh as he handcrafts timepieces in his workshop in the second episode in a series called “Made in Brooklyn.”

“I’ve been living in Brooklyn for seven years, and I just put a list together of people I thought would be interesting to profile, “ Cohen says, adding that he takes inspiration from blogs like Forgotten New York and Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. “And it just became this homage to Brooklyn and how many cool people are here creating and making things,” he says.

While the idea of spending four-minutes in a little workshop might seem dull, Cohen finds the detail work of local specialist craftsmen like Sokosh fascinating. “Watching him break it down screw-by-screw and piece-by-piece, is really amazing,” Cohen says.

And people seem to agree.

His previous video, “The Violin Maker,” which featured luthier Sam Zygmuntowicz, racked up 100,000 views in 10 days and was picked up by Gizmodo and HuffPo, among others.

“I’ve wanted to make these kinds of profiles for a long time,” Cohen says. “And I think it’s kinda the future of what I do.”

While Cohen is an experienced photographer, these are his first video profiles. The “hyper detail shots” in his video pieces allow people to appreciate the skill involved in what his subjects are doing, Cohen says.

And using the top-notch Canon 5D Mark II doesn’t hurt either. Still, all his equipment together only totals around $3,000, he estimates.

“It’s not a starter kit, but it’s not the highest of the high end kit. It kinda fits right in the middle,” Cohen says. “I bought everything when I was starting off on my own…so I was definitely on a budget.”

With the meshing of HD video and high-end digital cameras, the Brooklynite says it was a natural transition for his business. The problem is, he’s not getting paid for these videos.

“We’re still kind of figuring that part out. If anyone has any ideas for me, I’d be happy to, you know, listen to ‘em. That’s for sure,” he laughs. Cohen relies on his commercial photography to pay the bills.

Cohen works with editor Michael Hurley to shoot and edit the pieces quickly. The piece is a hybrid of careful planning and “fly-on-the-wall” documentary-style shooting—The Violin Maker was shot in cinéma vérité style along with a quick 15-minute interview. Although the actual shooting is done in an afternoon, Cohen believes it important to establish a relationship and scout out the space before a shoot.

“It really helped to have all that information instead of going in and then shooting for hours and seeing what you get. So you already know what the narrative is going to be like,” Cohen says.

Lone artisans will continue to be what Cohen trains his lens on in his next video as well—he ‘s shot a profile with “a female metal smith jewelry maker” that should be posted in the next week or two.  Future episodes will feature a shoe maker, a bespoke atelier, and a perfumer.

“I feel like there’s a resurgence of interests in things made in America and even more so with New York,” Cohen explains of the Brooklyn-made products and producers he features. “There’s just that intimate connection I think people enjoy.”

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