Cook was born in New York City. She took graduate courses in portraiture and documentary photography from 1973-1975, then earned her BA degree from Barnard College in 1978. After graduation, Cook studied privately with photographer Ansel Adams from 1978-1984, becoming his last protégé.
Cook, a fine art photographer, has work held in numerous private and museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles; the Museum of Fine arts in Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston; Bioliothèque Nationale and Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris; and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, among others. She has exhibited in Paris; New York; Martha’s Vineyard; Tucson; and Santa Monica.
Ten books of her work have been published, including Fathers and Daughters (1994) and Justice: faces of the Human Rights Revolution (2013). She is a regular contributor to The New Yorker.