Roger Grasas (ES) “Ha Aretz (The Promised Land)” - Helphoto 2022


United States

During the summer of 2019, Cocoa visited fifteen different towns while meeting young women and non-binary people, many of whom invited her to sleep in their homes. Through conversations about shame, religion, and gender identity, the trip became a pilgrimage to find intimacy and connection in a region that can feel simultaneously familiar and inaccessible, even to those who know it best. Moreover, as Alabama continues to make headlines in regards to women’s rights in the age of Trump, the artist became interested in exploring how the new generation of Southerners reconcile their relationship with the state and navigate the contradictions and extremes inherent to Southern identity. These contradictions are especially apparent in the archetype of the idealized Southern woman, who is often expected to be resilient yet obedient and demure in her strength. As the trip progressed, each participant in the project wrote a letter to the anonymous woman Cocoa would meet on her next stop, sharing stories and creating a network of encouragement among strangers. The resulting work explores the nuances of contemporary Southerness with a diverse array of young people, giving an intimate view of life in present-day Alabama from a female perspective. Beyond this, it marks the artist’s own attempt to come to terms with the place she still calls home.

Cocoa Laney (b. 1994) is an American documentary photographer based in the UK. Her work investigates themes of belonging, identity, and community, and her most recent work explores the lesser-seen aspects of her native Alabama through a feminist lens. In addition to her personal work, Cocoa has worked professionally as a portrait photographer since 2011 under Cocoa L. Photography LLC. The artist’s work has been shown internationally and featured in publications such as LensCulture and The Independent, and she is currently pursuing an MA in photojournalism and documentary photography at London College of Communication. 

Cocoa Laney (US) "Belle" - Helphoto 2020
Cocoa Laney (US) "Belle" - Helphoto 2020