A snapshot of the design industry – two metres apart

Photographer Mark Cocksedge’s visual record of a creative community during lockdown

Songwriting duo Lail Arad and JF Robitaille
Songwriting duo Lail Arad and JF Robitaille | Image: Mark Cocksedge

For photographer Mark Cocksedge, brother of designer Paul Cocksedge, lockdown was a period of abrupt and unsettling change.

Designer Ron Arad at his London home wearing his Smile for our Carers mask, which helped to raise funds for the NHS
Designer Ron Arad at his London home wearing his Smile for our Carers mask, which helped to raise funds for the NHS | Image: Mark Cocksedge

“It was a scary moment,” he says. “Much of my work was delayed or cancelled within two days.” But once he had acclimatised to his new reality, Cocksedge did what most creatives do in times of solitude and uncertainty – he hatched a new creative project. “I wanted to create a visual record of the industry on pause and include those people I would usually photograph in their studios or at Milan Design Week to see how they were dealing with the situation,” he explains.

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Cocksedge met his brother to brainstorm ideas – “He’s a big influence on my work,” Mark admits – and they came up with the concept for Two Metres Apart, a series of photographs of designers, artists, architects and writers taken on the doorsteps of their homes with an object that meant something to them. Cocksedge purchased a bike and began canvassing the idea to a hit-list of people who lived within cycling distance. “Ron Arad, who taught my brother at the RCA, was the first person we contacted. He replied quickly, just a few minutes later,” he laughs. “He said  ‘I love it, here’s my number, call me any time.’ I cycled round to his home and he was ready at the door wearing his Smile for our Carers mask, which he’d chosen as the object he wanted to be photographed with. It was great fun. The perfect start to the project.” 

Architect Mary Duggan with her daughter Margot
Architect Mary Duggan with her daughter Margot | Image: Mark Cocksedge

Arad – like all those photographed for the project – was asked to write a few words about his chosen object, or “companion” as Cocksedge called them. “The story of these face coverings is a tale of what can be possible in a time of crisis,” Arad states. “It is the story of a team built on Zoom, scattered across the country at kitchen tables and bedroom desks, who came together to do something to help others.”

Multidisciplinary artist Yinka Ilori on the roof of his studio. He chose pot plants as his meaningful objects
Multidisciplinary artist Yinka Ilori on the roof of his studio. He chose pot plants as his meaningful objects | Image: Mark Cocksedge

Cocksedge recalls the time as being surprisingly positive. “People wanted to talk – the conversations actually went on longer than the photography because that was the first human contact they’d had,” he says. “Some were also really busy – they had gone back to where they started in their work, designing and making from home. That was very interesting as it was bringing everything back to basics. It was the same for me. I had no lights or assistants, it was a completely different way of shooting, and much more candid in many ways.”

Tom Dixon chose fruit and vegetables from his restaurant as his companions
Tom Dixon chose fruit and vegetables from his restaurant as his companions | Image: Mark Cocksedge

One of his favourite images is that of architect Mary Duggan. “Her door had an amazing gold finish – and she had chosen her daughter Margot as her companion,” he says. “There was something so real about her experience as she divided her time between work and home schooling. I think that portrait is very honest.”

Artist Morag Myerscough with Elvis, her two-year-old Westie. “We share our daily outdoor exercise together,” she writes, recording her lockdown experience
Artist Morag Myerscough with Elvis, her two-year-old Westie. “We share our daily outdoor exercise together,” she writes, recording her lockdown experience | Image: Mark Cocksedge

Cocksedge met multidisciplinary artist Yinka Ilori on the roof of his studio. “I even used a separate entrance to get up there,” he says, recalling how he found Ilori seated on a wall with a selection of pot plants. “This time alone has allowed me to think differently and I know it will change the way I design,” Ilori writes of his experience. 

Priya Khanchandani, editor of Icon magazine, who recovered from Covid-19
Priya Khanchandani, editor of Icon magazine, who recovered from Covid-19 | Image: Mark Cocksedge

Priya Khanchandani, the editor of Icon magazine, was also photographed on the roof terrace of her apartment block (as well as by her doorway of her home) “as that was where she’d escape to” when she was suffering from Covid-19. “Being ill is disorientating; being ill during a lockdown is dystopian,” she writes. 

Designer Paul Cocksedge, the photographer’s brother, with his rescue dog Cricket
Designer Paul Cocksedge, the photographer’s brother, with his rescue dog Cricket | Image: Mark Cocksedge

One of the most poignant images for Cocksedge is that of his brother Paul outside his home with his new rescue dog Cricket. “Having her has given us a rhythm of walking and being outside in the fresh air,” Paul states. “On these walks nature has really stimulated new ways of being creative.” 

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The photographer hopes he has helped to document a remarkable moment in time. “If I carried on this project now, it definitely wouldn’t have the same meaning. The way they looked then, how they wanted to be seen in their photograph, and their expressions would look very different. Take Yinka’s image: you can really see he was having a reflective moment, and I think that says it all…”

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