Alex Coghe Photography | Documentary Photographer Based in Mexico
Alex Coghe is a Writer and Documentary Photographer specialized in taking pictures with a straight approach and focused on documenting the human condition. Alex is also a full time educator and instructor, producing and teaching his own workshops and photography expeditions in Italy and Mexico.
Despite some illustrious name has stained indelibly his career to make removing poles from his photographs, I always believed that life and world includes poles, on the streets and like in this photo of the master Guidi in countryside. I read recently about this photo the usual commentary criticizing it because of the pole.
Go to say him that the pole is an essential part of the image, dividing the frame in 2 parts, just in the middle.
In the case of my photo I used the poles and the lines created to give a rhythm to the image. Also in this case I could mentally divide the frame in 2, just in the middle thanks to the palm. I was interested to remark the inside and the outside of the supermarket parking lot in a barrio of the state of Mexico. And I think the composition works fine for the goal I proposed. I think is pretty interesting to highlight in my composition the structure I solved:
I think many times photographers, especially the ones with low visual culture, rely too much on rules and codes. While one of the most important things are the ideas that each of us must put into our photography.
SINCE 2015 I PROPOSE PHOTO EXPEDITIONS IN THE MAGIC OF OAXACA
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain
The photo you see is used as default background of this website in many pages and is not a case. I made the photograph during the second GUELAGUETZA PHOTO EXPEDITION, and it represents to me, in some way, all the sense of celebration, magic, mystery and spirit of communion between souls and different cultures and identities that this gigantic folk festival carries with it. If Day of the Dead is important for all the Mexicans and able to attract people from any part of the world to see how people herehas a completely different concept of death and therefore of life itself, the GUELAGUETZA represents the essence of Oaxacan, made of joy of life, hospitality and boundless generosity.
While for Day of the Dead there are many colleagues offering photography workshops, for Guelaguetza I am the only one and this is possible for several years thanks to the partnership with Fujifilm Mexico.
For 8 days I will be there with a small team. We will photograph several celebrations in the city and villages around. We will visit important places in the state of Oaxaca. We will document with our cameras, and the work realized will be used for a printed book. We will meet people. We will speak to them. We will dive in the real Mexican culture.
My work will be as always made of photography and writing. I have assignments of writing articles for magazines. I will send my photography coverage to the agencies. I will give my work to Fujifilm Mexico. This is the work I have to do, I feel the sense of commitment with this and I feel myself excited because I know I will do a great work.
In the last years many things are changed, in particular my vision and approach, so this experience will be renewed again.
My wanderlust* is absolutely lit. I can’t wait to start this new experience.
I received this comment recently on facebook. Honestly I think the evident change in my photography is under everyone’s eyes. When I stated that one cycle was finished and another opened, I didn’t say it to say.
The process has been particular, passing through many phases, and the certainty after 10 years of career as a professional photographer I needed to take another step. And this step was encouraged to look back, inside myself and how I started with photography, when I was just 10 years old: in color, making urban landscapes and portraits of the everyday, about the ordinary people and ordinary life. So the muted pastel color palette became close to my visual proposal, and it could not be otherwise, because I was born photographically watching and admiring the pioneers of 70s color fine art photography, in particular Stephen Shore and William Eggleston. The discovery of Luigi Ghirri took place later, but not less important for my visual training.
Over the years I have obviously added a lot of my studying the masters, and black and white became the expansive form in which I identified myself most. Despite the transfer in Mexico and also because I was not satysfied by the digital color. Times are changes, and I am changed.
“Color is the real world. The job of the color photographer is to provide some level of abstraction that can take the image out of the daily.”- Joel Sternfeld
This statement which appears contradictory changed my perception of what I could do. Joel Sternfeld work is political: this is the difference of his landscapes respect to Shore, to make an example. While in the work of Ghirri we can observe a political commitment in his approach to investigate the Italian suburbs, who have redesigned the idea of the Italy landscape.
While the subject matter may change and of course the camera may change and the approach may change, I think my work is still hel together by a consistent and coherent vision: I am still exploring and photographing the human condition of the barrios. As my blog in the technique and inspiration columns shows my study of photography and visual arts in general incorporat geometry into my compositions, trying to integrate also a coherent color scheme.
Through the project AMERICANA I developed an approach that has changed during this time, especially from an aesthetic point of view. Thanks to AMERICANA I have seen the changes that over the course of time have fed, in all these months, a change in my proposal, and now I can see how this process shaped my photography, sparking my vision, and it unifies everything I am doing. It is not just a narrative approach, but the essence of myself as a photographer.
The color palette is not just an aesthetic decision, but the index of a feeling: when I photograph on the street, I need to oberve not just the composition and the content. Color imposes formal choices even more rigid and in this sense there is a greater difficulty. The atmosphere of the place, the mindset, the perceptions derived by the experience of staying in a determinated place, everything contributes to creating a certain image.
A little note: We just released issue 55 of the magazine. The magazine is available at the price of € 5 as e-book and € 25 as printed edition. For both we pay a percentage to the featured photographers. We are the only ones in the world to make this. We know there are others proposing the printed edition at € 49 and not paying a dime to photographers. We don’t think is a fair way to proceed. They say to pay the photographers with visibility and this sounds like a joke. Don’t get fished, your work deserves to be paid.
Yesterday on instagram, under the photograph you see, I read a comment:
“This made me stop scrolling and have good look around the picture. Really awesome! It’s so full of life.”
I think that today in this continous scrolling of social networks, if we achieve to produce something like this also with a person is a good result. But going beyond the comment I think is very interesting how the perception of an image derives for all of us from how much life we absorb both as visual creators and as users of an image.
Even our attitude towards an event shows our attitude and therefore our character.
Look at this:
On facebook I written: “Yesterday I met this guy at the tianguis. He was holding a meter of crocodile and I couldn’t not photograph it. I asked him how much he would grow up, and he replied that the breed is up to a meter and a half. After taking the picture he asked me if I wanted to keep it in my arm and so I took it. I am a lover of crocodiles, I always liked them, but keeping one in my arms was certainly an experience. Market meetings in Mexico.”
Think about what I did: on the morning I mounted the 28mm on the XPRO2, with the intention to go to the market with the camera, maybe I could find something interesting to photograph. I was there with my wife, and I did have my mobile phone with me. Guess what? I just thought to make the photograph to the guy, while a lot of other people would have thought of being portrayed when the crocodile had them in their arms. Now I have the photograph, but not me posing with the alligator. I think this is a bizarre way to act in these times where anyone seems to be busy to show himself. In the last hours also using an app on facebook showing how they will be when getting older.
We live in an era of inflated ego. Where what matters is to show yourself in front of life. Now I don’t have the photograph of me with the alligator in my arms, and someone maybe can also to doubt that I really had it. Maybe next time I will meet the guy, I will ask to my wife to take a picture. But this is not the point of my speech.
I would like you to stop and think how a photographer is afferming himself today, and what is the most important thing.
For example, I’m sorry, but I always have doubts when doing a search by images of a certain photographer instead of seeing his photographs, I see the photographer’s face more. Is he/she a photographer or…a model?
You will have understood that for the affirmation of oneself for a photographer it is through his/her photographs. I believe this, also in these influencers epoque.
There is a fantastic book from Alec Soth, showing how a work can tell a lot about the photographer, without showing himself but the life of the others, or simply photographing objects, landscapes, etc.:
Well, in that book it emerges how a poetic of the image can marry the documentary focus. Exactly like THE AMERICANS of Robert Frank, showing images from his trips around America, and later Stephen Shore will do the same. About Alec Soth book Anne Wilkes Tucker said:
“In the book’s forty-six ruthlessly edited pictures, Soth alludes to illness, procreation, race, crime, learning, art, music, death, religion, redemption, politics, and cheap sex.”
In the analysis of what is photographed, certainly comes the consideration on what drives us to photograph and propose certain images:
In rapid succession, from the bus I was traveling in to get home, I photograph the murals in the Guerrero barrio. Of course, forget the splendid formalism and compositional construction of Soth’s work. The point is always and in any case the intent, which in this case is aimed above all at recording how everyday life is through snapshots that donèt even care about the quality of the image, altered by the reflections and dirt of the window.
At this point it emerges a question? Do we photograph always for the others? To make a book or affirming a particular message, or sometimes we simply photograph for ourselves? Sometimes I take picture only to (try to) understand things. While I photograph I analyze myself. And after, at home, in front of my computer, drinking a coffee starts another type of analysis.
In the photographic statement (each photo carries a statement with it) an intentionality always emerges.
And that’s why I leave you with this last shot taken in June. A snapshot that doesn’t tell me much and that I certainly don’t emphasize in my proposal, and what I pretend from my photography. And yet it represents everything I feel far away from today as a photographer.
I’m brooding and meditating a lot on what I do and where this path is leading me. At the halfway point, with ten years of experience as a photography professional, I expect more from my photography and my writings. Photography and the experiences that photography brings with it inevitably affect my whole life and the changes they produce to me as a person.
For the Guelaguetza Photo Expedition Fujifilm Mexico loaned me the Fujifilm XPRO2
Many things are changed from that first contact thatyou can readby clicking here
First thing: the camera did have an issue with a lens, now fixed. Then I can’t omit the fact my photography has changed. Also I have to say that I worked very little with camera. In total only for a maximum of 4 hours. Despite this I can say that I love the XPRO2, that I consider a great camera for documenntary/photojournalism. During the short time I worked with it, I made some street shots, and I can say that I love how the camera feels in my hand.
This time I worked with a 35mm lens, while I hope to have time to work with the 18mm lens. Fujifilm XPRO2 confirms to be an easy to use camera, at least for those familiars with the Fujifilm X series system. I like a fact on this camera: it is focused on the things to do. Believe me: this doesn’t happens with any camera. The XPRO2 is perfect for photojournalism and documentary photography: not excessively heavy yet gives you a feeling of solid builded camerawhich accompanied by an ideal ergonomics making the photographic experience absolutely work-oriented, without distractions.
I used the camera in manual exposition, metering spot. I worked directly in jpg, accommodating it to my aesthetics. One of my priorities from this point of view is getting an organic images as much as possible. On the first images I forgot to “turn off” the sharpness. I don’t like the sharpness of the digital cameras and I prefer to adjust this after in post production. Also the color I lowered it to a minimum: lower contrast and saturation helps to get a more organic file. I am perfectly aware that modern lenses because of multicoated contribute to create that contrast that I don’t like and it looks digital. In fact for my Pentax I am using an old 50mm lens. My way to think about digital is that of its incomparable comfort, its speed of image management, but still I’m tied to an idea of making and seeing photography in a certain way. Thanks to Fujifilm X series cameras my way to work is still natural, but I have to adjust some settings in order to obtain my photography as I want.
This is one of the photos where I worked with the sharpness too high. I don’t like too sharp, but I don’t think it can be appreciated on the blog to get what I mean.
Yesterday I was in downtown with my wife to buy shoes and an external hard disk. Clearly my first thing was not making a camera test but I took some shots with the XPRO2:
I feel that there is still a short time for using the camera, but equally I wanted to offer this review for my readers. Would I recommend this camera? Yes, of course, I would recommend it to myself and to all those documentary photographers willing to work focusing on the work to do. Because this is a work-to-do camera without special effects. Any travel or documentary photographer will love to photograph with XPRO2.
You know this is an old camera to review, but my readers know that I am that kind of blogger thinking to SEO or pretending to review perfectly a camera, maybe the last release on the market. I have my trusted audience that knows that my recommendation is reliable. Believe me, XPRO2 is still a camera worth to buy, and the price-quality ratio currently has very few rivals.
Fujifilm confirms to be the Leica for those cannot afford excessive spending, that don’t care about wearing a camera but using it. And be careful with what I say you: today if you are not an inglorious cropper, and you don’t need blow ups in print, between APS-C and Full Frame in digital doesn’t have so much sense. I still would make a difference with film. My way to work is jpg straight from the camera, focused on documentary/photojournalism and I became a photojournalist with an APS-C camera. I never owned a full-frame, except the film cameras that I use.
If I could spend 2000 Euro I would buy immediately the XPRO2. I think I have nothing else to add to this review.