Mark Coggins is both an author and photographer. His images have been used to illustrate his own novels as well as the books of other writers, notably Patricia Cornwell’s Red Mist (end papers) and Roland Barthes’s A Lover's Discourse: Fragments (cover photograph). Most of his photographs are street scenes from cities throughout the world. “I seek to capture people interacting or engaged in a representative activity,” he says. “I hope my work conveys the energy, communal bonds, and in some cases, inherent mystery and alienation of urban life.”
Originally, Coggins used photography to document places he wanted to describe in his books. Then he hit upon the idea of including the photos he was taking in the books. Later, he began to alter the plot of his books to have an excuse to include photos he liked that didn’t have a reference to an existing scene. Now he “moves fluidly between writing and photography, doing both pretty much at the same time.”
As Union Street Gallery Director Samantha Goss said in a Chicago Tribune article about an exhibition featuring Coggins’s work, "People like to put a story to the art they look at. That aspect really comes across in the work. We can see where the two aspects of his life [author and photographer] really complement each other."
Take, for example, his image Zoltar Gets a Shove. Why is the woman in the photograph pushing the fortune-telling machine through the street? What brought her to that instant in her life? If Zoltar were to talk, what would he say? These are questions that the viewer asks and then finds herself creating a story to explain. Coggins’s images portray more than just an instant in time. Somehow, with his writer’s sensibility, he is able to capture a moment that evokes a bigger story—a story redolent with humor and compassion.
Mark Coggins: Geisha Confidential
Mark Coggins: The Ice Cream Eaters
Mark Coggins: Zoltar Gets a Shove