Nick Hedges – A Life Worth Living

In 1968, Shelter employed Nick Hedges to document the oppressive and abject living conditions being experienced in poor quality housing in the UK. We commissioned the work in an effort to raise consciousness about the extent of unfit living conditions and to illustrate, in human terms, what the real cost of bad housing was.

A number of Nick Hedges’ images are on display on large billboards in St Andrews Square in Edinburgh this month, if anyone  recognises the people photographed or know what happened to them they are encouraged to contact Shelter – you can do by emailing mediascotland@shelter.org.uk

 

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Couple in a Leith tenement flat Edinburgh © Nick Hedges/Shelter 1972

Family living in an overcrowded tenement flat Glasgow © Nick Hedges/Shelter 1971

Family living in an overcrowded tenement flat Glasgow © Nick Hedges/Shelter 1971

Mother living with her children in an overcrowded single end tenement flat Glasgow © Nick Hedges/Shelter 1971

Mother living with her children in an overcrowded single end tenement flat Glasgow © Nick Hedges/Shelter 1971

The thing about people living in slum housing is that there is no drama…it’s about the absolute wearing down of people’s morale in a quiet and undemonstrative way.
Nick Hedges

View of Glasgow tenements © Nick Hedges/Shelter 1971  "It is apparent in the number of times disaster hits the city, every year some tragic event reinforced its reputation upon the rest of the country. A tenement fire, a gas mains explosion, a football crowd disaster, the shipyard crisis, the unemployment rate, another fire disaster; the list is endless". Nick Hedges

View of Glasgow tenements © Nick Hedges/Shelter 1971

 

Unemployed colliery worker Glasgow tenement © Nick Hedges/Shelter 1971 "They are the grimmest environment that I’ve encountered. This has something to do with the size of the stone used in their construction, the entry to them through the cave like entrances, the deep and dark stairwells and the relentless pattern of streets. The tenements are built around a courtyard which becomes a battlefield and refuse dump." -  Nick Hedges

Unemployed colliery worker Glasgow tenement © Nick Hedges/Shelter 1971


Teenage girls waiting in backyard of tenement block Maryhill © Nick Hedges/Shelter 1971

Teenage girls waiting in backyard of tenement block Maryhill © Nick Hedges/Shelter 1971

See a link here on the Shelter website for Nick Hedges’ honest and striking account of his time photographing in Scotland for Shelter.

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Why I Took This PIcture……Giulietta Verdon-Roe

It had been a long day.

I had started early, going straight to Home-Start Levenmouth offices and interviewing all who worked there.

It was just before Christmas and everyone was running around trying to organise the bags of presents which had been donated. Never ending lists filled with children’s names were being checked off and discussed…

“who would like the fire-engine over the small truck?”
“is she too old for this book?”
“her sister might steal that”
“ooo this is perfect for…”
“she’s a Tom boy she won’t like that!”

I was told that these were likely to be the only presents that these children received this year, so it was very important to find the right thing for the right child.

After the morning of sorting out toys and interviewing, I had arranged to meet with a volunteer and her young charge. We went to an arts and craft centre in a park where we painted magnets. It was incredibly windy and it was difficult to even open the car doors without them closing in your face as we climbed back into the car. It was freezing cold and the last of the trees clinging leaves flew from their branches. The magnets were going to be presents that the young girl could give to her Mum for christmas.

I took pictures through-out the day and found myself learning a great deal about the community I was documenting, the role of a volunteer and the children and parents they then helped.

On our way back we stopped off at the local super-market. The little girl I was with charged around pointing at everything and hoping she could persuade her volunteer to buy it.

I was so aware of her wanting these things and equally aware of her mums inability to afford them and there it was, aisles and aisles of toys that all the parents had to walk down and say no to. That’s why I took this picture.

Giulietta’s photograph, and others from her series, “Home-Start Levenouth”, can be seen at Fotospace Gallery, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, as part of the “Seeing Ourselves” exhibition, which is curated by Document Scotland. The exhibition continues until August 1st 2013.
Document Scotland’s latest newspaper, which accompanies the exhibition can be bought online. Treat yourself.  http://www.documentscotland.com/seeing-ourselves-newspaper/

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