Nothing is ever as it seems. One woman holds another woman’s hand as she reads her palm while in the background two ladies with their feet dangling enjoy drinks as they perch on a ledge. An intriguing, and quite innocuous shot, but…
“Oh I think one of them is not, completely a woman,” Itralian-born, Mexico-based Alex Coghe tells me unexpectedly. “The she-male is in fact the one that is reading hands. I took it during my coverage of the last Chinese Carnival in the smallest Chinatown in the world – that is in Mexico City (Known as Barrio Chino).”
Copyright © Alex Coghe
A restless soul, Coghe describes himself as a photojournalist, a documentary photographer, street photographer, writer, editor, publisher. He is prolific, producing unique and quite distinctive photographs which are, simply, thought-provoking. His street photography series ‘Reality Remade’, for example, is like a visual ‘Rave’ experience, brilliant in its conception – 808 State in sound?
“That is a really old series, realised in 2011,” The photographer tells me when I ask him about ‘Reality Remade’. “A lot of people love it…and let me say, after I published it, it was featured in several magazines and websites. I don’t say (however) I have some sort of exclusivity for the aesthetics or the techniques used.”
The photographs in Reality Remade portray Mexico city residents at extraordinarily close range edged with a degree of unsettling distortion.
“I was in Madero Avenue and I started to think a bizarre idea…” He told me candidly. “There was a great flow of people going in front of me, people I never will … see again – the thoughts of a stranger in a metropolis of 23 million inhabitants. It was the fleetingness of life! Yes, I should create ghosts on the streets… I was like a Gilden clone, so I closed the aperture, I used slow times of exposure and moving the camera while the flash worked…it was funny. …There is a picture that I think marks out that series showing an older lady, a woman and… a new born baby. Reality Remade for me is about life and death, a reflection.”
Hold that thought : the idea that a whole sea of strangers flowing rapidly toward us on the street is a metaphor for life, our own life, flowing rapidly toward…the end? Life and death on Madero Avenue, Mexico City?
Copyright © Alex Coghe
What Coghe achieves in this series of photographs is that sensation of life passing, in the form of a rolling ocean of strangers rushing at us, while we rocket through on our way to the exit door? The philosophical suggestion that the human form is being drowned and overwhelmed by the sheer speed of passing existence. Street photography then is about capturing that moment to be held in time in an attempt to slow the process down? Is that what we are doing?
It seems ironic, then, that it was for matters of the heart – emotions that make you lose sight of time and space – that Coghe found himself in Mexico
“I was born in Italy. Rome, to be precise,” He explained. “Where I grew up is a neighbourhood called Vitinia, but a great part of my Italian life I lived in Ostia, not very distant… with the beaches, the sea… I met and married a Mexican girl in 2010, and in Mexico I’ve become a professional photographer.”
So what is it about street photography that appeals so much to Alex?
“Street photography for me is simply my way of living and seeing the world,” He says simply. “It is about going out with my camera always, even if I go to the supermarket, and capture what attracts me. Some people think it is a photographic genre. For me it is an approach and a way of living photography that allows me to never get tired of having a camera with me.”
In the contemporary round, of course, everybody – we would think – carries a camera and every year an increasing number of photographs are taken and posted on the internet. Many shot on mobile devices and uploaded, in the blink of an eye, onto social media. A feature of modern living that Coghe is not at all comfortable about.
“Today,” he starts up again, “Street photography is very popular, but I am not sure for the right reasons. Street photography with a documentary value is what I am interested in. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy…50 per cent of the community, but I am perfect aware…there are a lot of ‘wimps’ and ‘posers’ trying to be ‘street photographers’. But, what are they doing, going downtown and shooting random people, with no clue, poor visual knowledge and with no ‘real’ interest in their subjects? Photos taken just to share on the internet, on Facebook and Instagram, continuous shooting without reflection on the click.”
It is a hard hitting critique on modern street photography and the modern street photographer. A critique that, perhaps, should open the way to genuine debate about the direction of travel. But it is Coghe’s street photographs that are so captivating.
Copyright © Alex Coghe
A man wearing a crash helmet stands beside an advertising horading of a man wearing a crash helmet. The likeness between the two men is uncanny, though Coghe puts this fortuitous moment down to luck. They are not the same fellow, the man just happened to be standing there when the street photographer came along. He is too modest.
What now for this multi talented photographer?
“As an editor and publisher I am interested in developing my ‘e-magazines’ : The Street Photographer Notebook and La Strada. I dream to meet a publisher or a big brand interested to join the project. About my workshops : Fotolabs, aimed at focusing on the production of…storytelling with photography. In 2018 I will be back in Italy to give my special workshops connected with my Italia Dolce Vita project.”
You can find out more about Alex Coghe and his multi-faceted approach to photography at his website www.alexcoghe.com