Frontline nurse Cohan Zarnoch snaps incredible images of remote African tribes


These incredible images of remote tribes in Africa were taken by a frontline nurse who says that the people there are the most caring on the planet.

American Cohan Zarnoch, 54, has worked and travelled with multiple non-profit organisations over the past 12 years, snapping breathtaking pictures of rural tribes in countries including Ethiopia, Rwanda, Namibia and Morocco.

The mother-of-four explained that her love of photography began when she was just 15 years old after she received her first film camera and it continued into her adulthood.

Cohan has been snapping stunning pictures such as these for the Past 12 years

Nurse and photographer Cohan Zarnoch captured these images in Ethiopia. She has been snapping stunning pictures such as these for the past 12 years 

Cohan snaps her beautiful images while working for non-profit organisations and on medical missions. Pictured is a tribe in Ethiopia

Cohan snaps her beautiful images while working for non-profit organisations and on medical missions. Pictured is a tribe in Ethiopia 

Cohan regularly travels solo

Cohan says that the beautiful thing about Africa is that there is always something to take pictures of

Cohan, who regularly travels solo, says that the beautiful thing about Africa is that there is always something to take pictures of

However, Cohan, who recently returned home from New York after serving on the frontline in a hospital taking care of Covid-19 patients, said she put off her photography hobby for many years due to her job as a nurse and her children.

She explained: ‘I felt that the responsibilities outweighed the passion I felt behind the lens until one day when I was travelling with a medical mission team and they asked me to take some pictures because I had my camera with me.

‘Their usual photographer was unable to join them and they needed photos for their fundraising efforts. From there, I became their photographer for every trip and it expanded to multiple organisations capturing their mission efforts across the world.’ 

Twelve years later, Cohan is still working for non-profits and medical missions and regularly travels solo, visiting and photographing tribes throughout Africa.

The photographer, who has had work published in Africa Geographic, said the continent has ‘always been my calling’ and that it is home to the ‘most interesting and loving people on the planet’. 

She added: ‘They are not aggressive by nature, they adhere to their centuries of culture and allow me in.

Cohan took this picture in Ethiopia. The award-winning photographer said she is particularly drawn to women and children and enjoys capturing the 'innocence of a child and their perspective of the world around them'

Cohan took this picture in Ethiopia. The award-winning photographer said she is particularly drawn to women and children and enjoys capturing the ‘innocence of a child and their perspective of the world around them’ 

The photographer typically shoots for hours at a time, constantly scanning the tribe for interaction or emotion that she can capture on camera

Cohan said her favourite images are 'those that speak the loudest through their expressions and emotions'

The photographer typically shoots for hours at a time, constantly scanning the tribe for interaction or emotion that she can capture on camera

Cohan says that Africa has 'always been my calling' and that it is home to the 'most interesting and loving people on the planet'

Cohan says that Africa has ‘always been my calling’ and that it is home to the ‘most interesting and loving people on the planet’

‘It is a place I go knowing that I am accepted not by conditions, but who I am in that moment. I do not have to explain, justify or defend because they have no judgement. They remind me that judgement need not exist when the connection is real.’

Speaking of the process behind taking her breathtaking photos, Cohan explained: ‘My process is simple. I smile and connect with the children at first. It then gives the mothers an understanding that I value and enjoy being around their children.

‘Once the connection is made, I allow the tribe to continue about their day with me standing to the side until I know they are comfortable with my presence.

‘I have a long lens I use until I have spent a good amount of time with them. I carry two cameras, one long lens, one short lens and when I feel they are comfortable with the cameras, I begin to shoot with both.’

Cohan said she allows the children to hold her hands. She plays with them and sometimes shows them the photos she has taken, noting that many of the children have never seen themselves before because there are no mirrors in the remote tribes.

She typically shoots for hours at a time, constantly scanning the tribe for interaction or emotion that she can capture.

Speaking of the process behind her breathtaking photos, Cohan explained: 'My process is simple. I smile and connect with the children first'

According to Cohan, 'the best part of shooting is the experience and connections made with the people along the way'

Speaking of the process behind her breathtaking photos, Cohan explained: ‘My process is simple. I smile and connect with the children first’

Photographer Cohan is currently preparing for a 150 to 200-piece photography show at a museum in Rome. Pictured is a tribe member in Ethiopia

Photographer Cohan is currently preparing for a 150 to 200-piece photography show at a museum in Rome. Pictured is a tribe member in Ethiopia 

According to Cohan, Africa is a 'place I go knowing that I am accepted not by conditions, but who I am in that moment'

When it comes to taking images of children, Cohan says she often plays with them and lets them hold her hand

According to Cohan, Africa is a ‘place I go knowing that I am accepted not by conditions, but who I am in that moment’ 

Cohan says: 'My work gives light and voice to those who have yet to find their truest self… those you have never seen nor heard'

Cohan often takes her pictures while working for non-profit organisations or while on medical missions

Cohan says: ‘My work gives light and voice to those who have yet to find their truest self… those you have never seen nor heard’ 

She said: ‘The beautiful thing about Africa is that there is always something to shoot. I can walk away from a week-long trip with 5,000 photos of the purest human nature to exist.’

Explaining the inspiration behind her images, Cohan said: ‘During my travels, I have had the opportunity to shoot thousands of people, all of whom are an inspiration to me.

‘It is a smile of connection that one shares when words cannot be spoken. A smile is a universal language that requires simply kindness and a willingness to accept them for who they are in that given moment. It becomes a moment of vulnerability for myself, as I too want to be accepted for who I am in that moment.’

Cohan said her favourite images are ‘those that speak the loudest through their expressions and emotions’ adding that ‘love is a universal symbol across the borders and capturing it brings such joy to a world of so much hurt’.

The award-winning photographer said she is particularly drawn to women and children and enjoys capturing the ‘innocence of a child and their perspective of the world around them’. 

She said: ‘Women with their children express so much love and commitment to their child that it takes my breath away.

Cohan says her favourite images are 'those that speak the loudest through their expressions and emotions'

Cohan has snapped images of tribes in the likes of Ethiopia, Namibia and Rwanda

Cohan says her favourite images are ‘those that speak the loudest through their expressions and emotions’

The photographer has had work published in Africa Geographic

Cohan's love of photography began when she was just 15 years old after she received her first film camera

Speaking of one travel memory she is particularly fond of, Cohan explained that she was invited to stay with the Himba tribe, who are considered the last semi-nomadic people of Namibia. She recalled: ‘I stayed in a dung covered hut with the grandmother. I slept on the hard dung covered dirt with no blanket or pillow, but it was a privilege to be in the grandmother’s hut because she was the most senior of the tribe’

‘My work gives light and voice to those who have yet to find their truest self… those you have never seen nor heard.

‘The best part of shooting is the experience and connections made with the people along the way. Everyone has a story, but it is up to us to see and hear that story so it can be captured on film. I will continue to hold that dream and hope that one day soon it will be reached.’ 

Speaking of one travel memory she is particularly fond of, Cohan explained that she was invited to stay with the Himba tribe, who are considered the last semi-nomadic people of Namibia.

She recalled: ‘I stayed in a dung covered hut with the grandmother of the tribe as well as a few other ladies. 

‘I slept on the hard dung covered dirt with no blanket or pillow, but it was a privilege to be in the grandmother’s hut because she was the most senior of the tribe and, therefore, carried authority.’

Cohan is currently preparing for a 150 to 200-piece photography show at a museum in Rome, the date of which has yet to be confirmed.



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