The HitcherCoekin, Chris
The Hitcher is the second book by photographer Chris Coekin. It is the conclusion and documentation of his travels, relying on hitchhiking as his only mode of transportation, throughout the UL during the past six years. The book coinsided with an exhibition at the Photographer Gallery in London in 2007. Coekin's images include not-so-perfect, snapshot aesthetic self-portraits and observant documentary-style images made with a small, cheap disposable camera and revealing formal portraits of the drivers taken on a professional camera. Starting in 2000, the images from this project have developed from a medley of short stories into a playful but serious narrative, providing a contemporary illustration of his adventures and observations. Influenced by the concept of the road trip and his memories of his travels across Europe in his youth, Coekin cites literary publications, such as Laurie Lee's As I Walked out one Summers Morning (1939) or On the Road (1957) by Jack Kerouac, as well as the musical adventures of Woodie Guthrie (1912-1967) as personal inspirations. For Coekin, the adventures of hitchhiking epitomise the freedom of the open road and the possible risks. Since the 1960s, when this type of travel was most popular, it has relied heavily on opportunity and trust between strangers. If not already, in years to come hitchhiking may be a thing of the past and Coekin's photographic documentation references this; questioning how did this break down? Why is distrust in society so prominent now? Who is responsible for feeding this distrust? It is the interest in these social issues, symbolized by hitchhiking in this instance that is a recurring theme in Coekin's work. Of the photographs selected for the exhibition the self-portraits, in which he is both the protagonist and a performer as a hitcher, invite the viewer to join him on his journey. The documentation of found items or roadside detritus are personal reflections or little visual metaphors on the state of the UK. Also present in the exhibition will be his cardboard signs; made on the road these were his tickets to travel and as such stand as visual indicators of his travels. Finally, there are portraits of those who have made the impulsive decision to pick him up and help him along his way. Coekin's interest is in what has lead them to this snap decision and the photographs welcome the record of the fleeting trust between two people -a reassurance that signs of humanity still exist. Chris Coekin (b. 1967, Leicester) lives in London and is Senior Lecturer in Photography ar rge University College for the Creative Arts (Rochester). He won Photo District News (USA) Best Photographic Book for Knock Three Times (Dewi Lewis, 2006) in 2007.