Joseph H. Kohl, 44, news, fine arts photographer

March 08, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Joseph H. Kohl, a news and fine arts photographer who documented the leaders of Baltimore's business community as well as personalities on The Block, died Tuesday of leukemia at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center & Hospital. He was 44 and lived in Glen Burnie.

The staff photographer for the Baltimore Business Journal, and formerly at other newspapers in the area, Mr. Kohl also exhibited his pictures in local coffeehouses and galleries.

"He had a feel for the underside of Baltimore life," said Michael P. Giuliano, a former colleague at the old Baltimore News American. "Sometimes he was shooting on an assignment, but he often was shooting for his own pleasure. Any photographer has to have a curiosity about the world and Joe in particular had an interest in the demimonde, the underworld."

"I found him talented, dependable and creative," said Joanna Sullivan, editor of the Business Journal. "He was always so much fun to have around - he loved his cameras, and he knew Baltimore and a lot of people in it."

In a 1997 review in The Sun, art critic John Dorsey wrote, "Joseph Kohl's work has the ability to tell a whole story with one shot."

Friends said that no matter what his assignment, Mr. Kohl typically dressed in baggy khaki pants and a short-sleeve blue broadcloth shirt, and had cameras dangling from his belt.

Born in Fort Belvoir, Va., and raised in Odenton, he was a 1976 graduate of Arundel High School in Gambrills, earned a fine arts degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

As a college student, he was an intern at The Sun. In 1981, he joined the News American , where he was trained in taking breaking news and feature pictures by veteran photographer Fred G. Kraft Jr., who died in 2000.

After the News American folded in 1986, he became a City Paper contributing photographer. He also was formerly a photographer for the Carroll County Times, Baltimore Alternative and The Avenue.

Friends said Mr. Kohl often took dignified pictures of Block striptease artists - as well as Calvert Street transvestites. They compared his work to that of Arthur "Weegee" Fellig, a free-lance photographer who roamed New York City after dark in the 1930s and 1940s.

"I liked to think of him as Weegee incarnate," said Baltimore photographer Carl Clark. "Like all artists of passion and commitment, Joe was quirky. He was a strange combination of strength and vulnerability, determination and depression, ambition and hopelessness, gentleness and anger."

Services will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Singleton Funeral Home, 1 Second Ave. S.W., Glen Burnie.

Mr. Kohl is survived by his mother, Inez R. Kohl of Glen Burnie; two sisters, Deborah A. Kohl of Baltimore and Patricia Wightman of Odenton; two nephews; and three nieces.

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