Alexandria Coe & Kirk Truman Present Body

The Notebook | 25th February 2019

The distinctly creative couple on publishing their first monograph, capturing the elegance simplicity of the human body and overcoming the art directed realities of social media 

Kirk Truman is a London-based photographer perhaps best known as founder and Editor-in-Chief of the quarterly cultural publication The Journal, for which he produces all of the imagery. He specialises in portraiture and street photography, working in both digital and film, and focuses his craft very much upon geometry, composition and high contrast black-and-white. His partner Alexandria Coe is an artist who studied at Chelsea College of Art and Central Saint Martins, and her delicately simple line drawings of the female form explore sensuality via an intuitive and beguiling minimalism. This month, the two of them release their first collaborative monograph, BODY, which effortlessly brings their creativity together in a trans-disciplinary dance celebrating the abstracted female form. The beautifully bound monograph is an unusually sparse offering that offers the viewer a call-and-response view of the human form as captured by both the lens and the imagination–playing the stark light and shade of black-and-white photography against the elegant simplicity of two of three perfectly executed lines. This month, the creative couple launch BODY at Mortimer House, and here they tell Maslow’s Notebook how they were inspired by a shared love of physical media, and why an abstracted representation of form can be so much more real than the art-directed realities of social media.

Tell us about the genesis of BODY. What was your key inspiration?
AC: I used to take a lot of self-portraits for my own Instagram. Naturally, Kirk progressively began taking them for me. The pictures then became a collaborative process. I guess at one point, I started to interpret these photographs, and the idea of the book was born.
KT: As Alex mentions, this became a natural progression for us both. I had begun to switch from shooting in the digital medium to film. For me, I have always described myself as a portrait photographer. Light and high contrast have always been starting points for any image I take. With Alex, this became about taking nude portraits, something I hadn’t ever tried before we begun the BODY series.

Do you feel the way in which the body is represented in mass culture has become too idealised?
AC: Beyond the airbrushing of images, I guess the biggest issue is the fact that most of us experience ‘bodies’ through a screen–this really starts to play with our ideas of naturalness. On the flip side, though, social media has opened up a space beyond stylised images to show a range of ‘bodies’.
KT: Platforms such as Instagram have totally changed the ballgame for creatives. However, what we often forget is that many of the accounts we follow are curated versions of individuals lives, and aren’t a true representation of reality.
 

Can you remember the first images that really switched you both on as young people?
AC: I fell in love with Francesca Woodman’s nude self-portraits when I was quite young. She took some of the most intimate and iconic self-portraits, which were way before her time, and even more special knowing her story ended in tragedy.
KT: From a young age, I was fascinated with high contrast black-and-white imagery. In my teens, filmmakers inspired me. I was especially drawn to the work of directors such as Mike Leigh and Stanley Kubrick. One of the first photographers that really inspired me was Anton Corbijn, more specifically his work with Joy Division in the late 70s/early 80s. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling, and the storytelling of others, regardless of the medium, has always been a key facet of what I do.

What would you say it is about an image that provokes a reaction?
AC: I make work that borders on the abstract, whilst maintaining a clear outline of a human form. Bodies, and faces alike, are an image we can all connect with, this is turn provokes a reaction we can internalise through our own experience. The essence of abstraction or ambiguity allows an image to be a conversation, as everyone will connect differently, see something different, and react in a unique way.
KT: For me, as a photographer, it's about the relationship between the subject and the lens. I think you can tell from an image if there was a good synergy. When I take an image, I try to take something, which will make somebody want to stare for more than a few seconds. If you can achieve that, I feel you’ve created something rare given how quickly we digest content these days. For me, its all about simplicity and panache.

Why is it important to you to present these works in the form of physical media, such as a beautifully bound book rather than in the digital sphere?
AC: There is something tangible about paper. I would hate to work purely with digital media–you can’t touch it and, ultimately, the experience is guided by another. Whereas a book is an experience to which you choose to enter and close. I work purely in paper or canvas myself, as it feels the only justifying mediums via which to represent the female form in a digital age–an authentic relief from the oversaturated images of idealised beauty. So it made sense to combine my paper drawings and Kirk’s film photography into a beautiful object.
KT: It was an opportunity to produce something that wasn’t just in pixels, but in print. I feel strongly as both a publisher and a photographer that an image or the written word can be appreciated much differently on the page. Equally, this is the same for digital mediums such as a website or social media. I suppose what I’m saying is that in our modern world, it's about finding a balance. If you pick up your copy of BODY, it will be an experience that you will only truly be able to appreciate in print. I feel that having my images next to Alex’s drawings in print isn’t something you would be able to recreate online.

What is the value of creative pursuit in terms of personal wellbeing?
AC: I think it’s so important to find something that makes you feel human, something that involves your hands. I also think it is important to find something to express yourself without words. For me, drawing is my way of talking, without the complexities of linguistics. It blocks out the modern-day world for me.
KT: It keeps me sane! Seriously, I think without what I do as a photographer, a writer or a publisher, I would totally lose it. Since I was very young, I’ve always required a creative outlet to help express myself. I guess creativity for me could be described as escapism. It’s a way to convey something that I either cannot say or draw.

Inteview: John-Paul Pryor
BODY launches at Mortimer House on March 21st. If you wish to attend please RSVP to john-paul@mortimerhouse.com