I believe Leonard Cohen was someone fundamentally human. He never put on the celebrity act. He never made a fuss when he was being photographed. He understood my way of doing things and accepted it. He let me do my thing, gave me total freedom. I really loved those sessions because I felt I could express myself fully. Once, however, he decided to pose in a certain way. I found the result interesting because he was reinventing his image. For example, there is this photograph where Leonard Cohen rests his face in his hands, his eyes closed. He possessed grace and class… His eyes sparkled with laughter. At first, he seemed to be rather reserved, but in fact he had a keen sense of humor, he was very outgoing. When I photographed him, I felt we were working towards the same thing. He was present in my silence. He was part of it.1
Claude Gassian is a renowned French photographer who is best known for his work with music celebrities, including the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Eric Clapton, Frank Zappa, Prince, Daft Punk, and Madonna. Five of his shoots featured Leonard Cohen and resulted in classic portraits of the the Canadian singer-songwriter. Galerie A in Paris organized an exhibition of Claude Gassian’s photos of Leonard Cohen [at time of original post: 2017]. Happily for those of us who couldn’t make it to Paris, Galerie A offered 20 of these photos online at
Credit Due Department: Thanks to Dominique BOILE, who first alerted us to this exhibition.
I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted May 1, 2017.
- From Claude Gassian: “Leonard Cohen possessed grace and class” by Jean-Baptiste Gauvin (Eye of Photography: May 16, 2017). [↩]