Marcel Coen was born in Pau, a city in southwest France, to a Jewish family of Sephardic origin in February 1918. He spent five years in a concentration camp near Stuttgart during WWII. After liberation Coen moved to Marseilles, where he worked for photographer Sam Levin. He went on to produce work on various themes for several magazines including Détective, V Magazine and Paris Match. At V magazine he met a Marseilles based English journalist, Maurice Moyal. In 1951 they carried out a photo-journalism assignment on the seasonal migration of livestock between the lowland pastures of Provence and the mountainous regions of the Alps. They followed shepherds and their flocks for three weeks, living alongside them and documenting their life in the Alps. The piece was published in the April 1952 issue of National Geographic Magazine earning Coen much acclaim as a talented nature/documentary photographer.
Between 1952 and 1954 Coen was based in Paris, working as a stills photographer at the Boulogne-Billancourt studios, then in Rome at Cinecittà studios. In 1954, he moved back to Marseille where he opened a store in the allées Léon Gambetta. He then became the official photographer for Shell. It was during the 1960s that he took a photo of a radio workshop at the ORT Bramson school in Marseilles [see image].
In the 1970s Coen worked in advertising and food photography and had a studio on Rue Neuve Sainte-Catherine in Marseilles. However, his great love remained the outdoors and nature photography and he engaged in this whenever he could, focussing on botanical photographs of wildflowers around the village of Montjustin, which he visited regularly.
Marcel Coen continued working until 1995 and passed away in Marseilles in 2008. His work is held by the Municipal Archives of Marseille.