The works of Ora Cohen are performative as much as they are photographic. One sees in her work a certain alignment with video art tradition established in New York in the 1970’s. But Cohen is working with a different medium, toward similar ends. With this, there’s a certain modesty operating in Cohen’s photographs—an aspect of symbolism which pioneering portrait photographer of the late 70's and early 80's lacked.
In Faced from There, for instance, we see a young woman dunking her head into a basin. As a part of a series, this image suggests an act of ablution. Yet because the face of the young woman is all but submerged in the basin, the photo suggests shame or penitence. If we look at this photo as a portrait, one notes a striking disregard for the conventions of portraiture. Indeed, gender identity is a central theme in Cohen's work. Whereas portraits traditionally show the face, class, and familial connections of a subject, here the viewer can only glimpse the character of Cohen’s subject, mainly by way of indirect reference to her youthfulness and the seeming recklessness of her behavior.