The Pickle Man Celebrates a Life

“Until further notice, celebrate everything.” That was Arthur Cohen’s life motto, and Pickle Man captures just how he managed to live up to it.

In early May, the Montclair Film Festival included a film very close to my heart. The film is called Pickle Man and is about my family’s dear friend, Arthur Cohen, who founded the company PickALS to raise money and awareness for ALS.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. When Arthur, a New York based photographer, was diagnosed with ALS in 2014, he decided to turn a pickling hobby into his legacy—PickALS. Though he was losing the ability to walk and talk, Arthur ran the non-profit PickALS, which sold his crispy, crunchy, garlicky pickles to raise money for ALS research.

Arthur has been a part of my family since long before I was born. He took my mother’s professional working head shots and later her engagement pictures with my dad. As our family grew, he photographed every family holiday card and both my brother’s and my working head shots. Arthur was way more to my family than just a photographer, he was like the fun uncle that we all loved and adored. He was funny and energetic, loving and kind, and extremely gifted in his craft. It was hard to watch such an amazing man lose his basic abilities due to this devastating disease. Despite all that ALS had cost Arthur, it never broke his spirit.  

A story of the human will, Arthur turned the morbid into the extraordinary (and often hilarious), raising over a quarter of a million dollars to help fight the disease. All the while, he showed those around him, namely his youngest daughter, Tess, what a life well lived looked like.

Shot over a summer by Arthur’s daughter Tess Cohen and her friend Nastasya Popov, the documentary aims to capture the fun-loving spirit of its star. Premiering in Spring 2019, Pickle Man is a finalist for The Horizon Award, presented at the Sundance Film Festival.

Arthur Cohen passed away in 2017 but PickALS lives on and so does his spirit.