Alexander Coggin and Alice Ray discuss their bizarre and joyful series made over the pandemic
Two image-makers have come together in producing a flash-lit series of recognisable objects placed in weird scenarios. The pair tell us more about their project below.
It's been a tough few years, to say the least. But creativity, with all its remedial and therapeutic powers, has been a lifeline, with many turning towards a new or existing medium to make sense of the world around them – or to simply enjoy the process.
Alexander Coggin, a photographer, known for his humorous and flashy pictures, has done just that. In collaboration with Alice Ray, the pair have produced an ongoing series called Neighbourhood Watch, a joyful collection conceived in the first lockdown in London when all you could do was schedule in your daily walk to the park – at a distance from anyone else, of course. "Somewhere in the pandemic," says Alex, "I remember having lengthy phone calls with Alice and just chatting about the absolute psychosis of our daily routines – how days were bleeding into one another, and our daily walks were reliably mundane. For me, this work is very much a traverse through Alice's brain."
Following an intuitive and reflective process, the project is very much an observation of their surroundings and a depiction of what's hidden deep in their minds. Alice is particularly interested in the concept of observation and our relationship with the camera, "which is the closest design to the human eye we have," she shares. It means she makes imagery far from reality, going beyond what's perceived with our eyes.
Neighbourhood Watch, then, features objects and items we all will recognise: toast, butterflies, gardens and heels splashing in a puddle. But everything's slightly bizarre and a little different to what we're used to.
"In a lot of the conversations I heard throughout the pandemic, there was an emphasis on the mundanity of it all," says Alice. "I think we both felt like we noticed this bleeding of our online into our offline lives even more heavily during this time. So we thought, how do we take this setting of the one walk we're allowed outside every day? Instead of only showing what we're seeing, we decided to inject this more trans-perspectival idea of how we might experience the reality that starts to merge into those spaces via our minds."
As a result, the photographers consciously took themselves away from the four walls of an interior and scouted locations outside – a symbolic move that represents a time in the pandemic where walks and outdoor spaces were sacred.
Alex continues to describe the process of making the series as being "very hodge-podge" and "low stakes". Yet this care-free approach allows for a more DIY and improv-style of image-making; they're less bound to certain ideas or methods and are consequently able to hone in on the more dynamic, creative shots. It's an apt pairing of two like-minded image-makers that hope you'll enjoy their intentionally weird photography. "I worry that people are being constantly bombarded with visual information that iterates sameness, so as a contrast, it's important for me to convey a sense of idiosyncrasy and playfulness."
It's safe to say they achieved just that and we couldn't imagine a more entertaining project made out of the pandemic. And, concluding in the voice of Alex's best Transport For London announcement interpretation, "If you see something that doesn't look right, report it."