"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent"
- Isaac Asimov
I grew up in a rural village on the West Coast of Scotland called Lochwinnoch. Growing up there meant playing by the river, skimming stones, climbing trees, walking around the country, and building fires.
I did, however, have Glasgow on my doorstep. Only 20 minutes away, Glasgow was the polar opposite of the life I was used to. My late mother worked as a shopping centre manager in Easterhouse, and she used to employ me to help out with promotions at only age 12.
For those of you who don't know, Easterhouse used to be the largest council estate in Europe, and certainly one of the most impoverished in Britain. I believe things have improved over time but there were quite a lot of interesting characters to be seen.
My job, weirdly, was to take photos of people sticking their heads through one of those painted boards using a polaroid camera. I would then sell them to them for 50p. In the late 90's obviously cameras weren't as readily available and if it was now I would definitely have been made redundant! I was always artistic, but at age 12 never knew I would become a photographer some 20 years later.
Anyway, they used to go off with the photos, and then come back and kick off MASSIVELY. They would have scratched the photo on the corner, rubbed white smudges on it, or affected it in some way. They would then shout at me for their money back, but still demand to keep the photo.
Naturally, we all are victims of violence in the city in our lifetimes, whether it's verbal or physical. It's the risks we take when we live in or visit the urban environment. Most of the time we can just shrug it off and completely forget; others can scar you.
I wanted to capture the nature of intimidation and threat in close up and personal shots. For this I had to awkwardly find volunteers to literally start on me: no holding back. The first gentleman was at the top of Leith Walk:
This guy really went for it. I won't go into the details of what he was saying, but he really enjoyed it; screaming for the city to hear! I opted for high contrast, high highlight, low shadows and high structure in the photos to bring out every little detail, and to try to portray the feeling you get when your brain is going through the fight or flight process, and the adrenaline you feel.
The next volunteer was found at Hunters Square, and he was more than happy to participate:
In contrast to the first volunteer, this guy was whispering his threats and abuse, but he was much more up close and personal and began attacking me with his newspaper before cracking up with laughter. Again, I tried to acheive that sense of intimidation and fear.
Last but not least there was this lady on the South Bridge:
This, usually pretty until editing, young lady found it harder to get into character than the others, and initially I was going to exclude them from the collection, but on closer inspection I found that her expressions were that of ridicule. She found it hard to keep a straight face, and there were bouts of anger mixed with laughter which, for me, can easily represent verbal abuse without the fear of physical damage.
Each shoot was done in around 1 - 2 minutes, but the photos chosen are on one continuous blast of the shutter button, so each photo is only seconds apart, representing the spark of violence and how things can get out of hand so rapidly.
I am currently working on a super-collection called Alleyways and Alcohol that I hope you will all enjoy, and these mini-projects all help me get one step closer to its completion.
To see the photos above together, or if you would like to purchase signed prints for your Tenth Floor collection, CLICK HERE