Courtesy of Cocoa Laney
Cocoa Laney (b. 1994) is an American documentary photographer and educator currently based in the UK. Born and raised in Alabama, she is passionate about social justice and her work focuses primarily on issues related to gender and identity. She holds an MFA from Studio Arts College International, an MA in documentary photography and photojournalism from London College of Communication, and is the recipient of the 2019 Royal Photographic Society postgraduate bursary award. Her work has been shown internationally and featured in publications such as The British Journal of Photography, The Observer, LensCulture, Aint-Bad, and The Independent.
Student: Winning Entry: Belle
USA. Southern culture, shame, and religion among young women in my native state of Alabama
Belle is a project exploring Southern culture, shame, and religion among young women in my native state of Alabama. Over the course of six weeks, I visited fifteen different towns meeting young women and non-binary people, many of whom invited me to sleep in their homes for the night. Each participant in the project wrote a letter to the anonymous person I would meet on my next stop, sharing pieces of their invididual experiences living in the present-day Bible Belt and creating a network of encouragement among strangers. Beyond this, the trip marks my own attempt to come to terms with the place I still call home. The project was undertaken in the summer of 2019 and was made possible by the Royal Photographic Society postgraduate bursary award.
Cocoa Laney and Adam Razvi
Huntsville, Alabama, USA
Whole House Held is a portrait project by Cocoa Laney and Adam Razvi made in response to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working in the Southern US and London UK, portraits are made with friends and family, neighbours and strangers at a ‘social distance’ through windows and doorways. Rather than a quick snapshot, images are created using medium format film, a slow process, where relationships are formed and nurtured through unhurried conversations. Each household is also asked to take a sheet of paper and use it to represent something of comfort to them during this time. Responses have included poetry, children’s drawings, plant cuttings, mindfulness exercises, and recipes for vegan chocolate chip cookies.
Furthermore, addressing the theme of comfort is critical to us as artists; having a practice that facilitates connectionduring this time has been essential to our own well-being. The work is showcased on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wholehouseheld/ and we are currently making a book, which we plan to present alongside exhibitions in the US and UK.