The photographer is both actor and director is this series of short stories of a hitch-hiker in the UK and the drivers who pick him up. The people who decide in a split second to stop their cars and offer a lift to a stranger become unsuspecting documentary photo subjects of a dying breed of people willing to offer help to total strangers.

Using cheap disposable cameras, the photographer made self-portraits along the sides of highways. He also takes random snaps of the junk he finds along the road.

The portraits of those who decided impulsively to pick him up are made with a professional camera, after the "hitcher" has revealed his true destination (a photograph), and after the drivers have agreed to complete a pre-printed questionnaire and sign their approval to be included in the project.

In the end, the project feels more like a tightly controlled sociological document that lacks the emotional insight, humor and compassion that it could have. The reader is left wanting to know more about each of these kind strangers and why they were willing to stop. Were they lonely? Do they pick up hitchers as a matter of course? What did the hitcher and driver talk about? Did the drivers feel duped when they discovered that the hitcher really did not need a ride but another "stamp" in his passport?

Instead we get very little "background" about the drivers, and rather mute portraits of them looking fairly uncomfortable about being caught in an act of kindness.

Coekin's previous book, Knock Three Times (published by Dewi Lewis in 2006), captured the unguarded warmth and humanity of Britain's old-time social clubs with remarkable honesty and brilliant photography. The Hitcher is much more controlled. It will be interesting to see where this talented photographer goes next.

— Jim Casper




The Hitcher
by Chris Coekin
Hardback: 128 pages
Publisher: Walkout Books, in association with The Photographers' Gallery, London