I’ve been musing to myself recently about the great American road trip and why it interests me. No doubt it is to do with the vastness of land and with it the possibilities of adventure. I began to think more about home; England and the rest of the United Kingdom. Who has gone out to venture coast to coast? From point to point? Who has hitchhiked, walked or driven across our own Island and documented it?
I recalled seeing an exhibition at the Photographers Gallery a few years ago from a photographer whose name persisted to elude me - until I spoke to an all-knowing colleague and was revealed to be Chris Coekin. The Hitcher is the result of Coekin’s hitchhiking adventures around the United Kingdom, made on-and-off over six years. Using disposable cameras to produce images which mimic the unpredictable nature of his journey – and a medium format camera for his portraits – Coekin captures his adventures, the British landscape and the people encountered along the way.
Coekin shows us crisp packets, oil spills, fast food packets and road kill - a stark portrait of the modern landscape, spoilt by our 21st century lifestyles. The portraits of the drivers who helped him on his way are welcome reminders of the kindness of strangers and act as relief from increasing ‘stranger danger’ paranoia peddled by the media. Rekindling the notion of the hitchhiker, Coekin’s cardboard signs are tickets to adventure down the open road, while the images of him soaked through and abandoned by the side of the road are reminders of the his vulnerability as a traveller. Coekin shows his sense of humor too, adopting the title of the cult horror classic The Hitcher for the series, further poking fun peoples perceptions of the hitchhiker.