A West Coast Photographer Shines Light on Creative Capital Landmarks

Mike Cohea's panoramic visuals offer a fresh, colorful perspective of familiar sites in Providence.

Photography by Mike Cohea

Mike Cohea’s photographs are truly eye-opening. The panoramic visuals — distinctive, radiant, infused with dazzling colors — make Providence look magical. His work inspires a sense of wonder.

The photographer is enamored with the capital city and documents its splendor with a fresh perspective. 


Photography by Mike Cohea

“Providence has been photographed very well for a very long time,” Cohea says, but his creative use of drones allows him to put his own mark on it. He often focuses on the city’s modest skyline: “I love the ‘big three’ [the Superman Building, One Financial Plaza, 50 Kennedy Plaza] — I just love ’em.”

He’s also a bit of a storm chaser, with his knowledge of nature and science enhancing his approach. Some of his most striking frames feature lightning storms, rainbows, eclipses, the night sky and enormous full moons (which also co-star in stunning vistas of the Newport Bridge). In March, he finally captured a photograph he’d been chasing for five years: a thick blanket of morning fog pierced by the tops of the Superman Building and One Financial Plaza.


Photography by Mike Cohea

Cohea traveled a long and winding road to the Ocean State. He was born in Anaheim, California, and grew up in southwest Washington state. His interest in photography started early: He took his first photo when he was twelve years old, winning a ribbon at the county fair.

In high school, he aspired to be a baseball player. When that didn’t work out, he realized he could photograph baseball games. He took a newspaper class that led to a local paper, where he started photographing the Seattle Mariners.

He graduated from the University of Montana School of Journalism and soon went pro, working in Montana, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Peoria, Illinois, where he married an Ocean State native. 


Courtesy of Mike Cohea

“I didn’t realize that all Rhode Islanders end up back in Rhode Island,” he says.

His first gig here was at Beacon Communications, covering Warwick, Cranston and Johnston. Then he shifted to academia, with a six-year stint at Brown University. Since 2015, he’s been the staff photographer at Johnson and Wales University.

Cohea’s portfolio also includes compelling ground-level images from around the state, evocative portraits, interactive 360-degree images and engaging time-lapse videos, which are regularly posted on news sites worldwide. He sells prints, puzzles and calendars at his website and various artisans’ markets year-round.

“I’ve set the bar high for myself — there’s no other way to do it,” Cohea says. “I take a lot of photographs; people probably see 2 or 3 percent. If they don’t impress me, they’re not going to impress anybody else. But I love what I do. I tell people all the time that I haven’t worked a day in my life.” mikecohea.com 


Photography by Mike Cohea