Aye – Jörg Meier

Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.

Glasgow has long history of photographers chronicling life on its streets and in the schemes.

Some have been restless natives, others interlopers. Some passed through, others stayed and got to know Scotland’s biggest city and most populous conurbation. Glasgow gives generously to visitors, ready with smiles and stories, yet half-hidden are the truths which underpin a narrative of poverty, inequality and myriad social ills. It has all been photographed before.

It is these themes which offer the exploring eye an opportunity to grasp the Glaswegian reality. It’s no mean city and there’s no half measures, after all. Our memory bank of images is often saturated by Glasgow’s past. From Thomas Annan during the Victorian era, through Joseph McKenzie and Oscar Marzaroli’s (currently on show at Street Level Photoworks) peripatetic perambulations around the city slums, we have become familiar with a style of photography which leans heavily on tropes as metaphor. That’s not to say these photographers’ documentation of the way we lived is inaccurate or cliched. Far from it. It is a vivid truth, naked and unvarnished.

More recently, the images made by French Magnumista Raymond Depardon have come into plain sight. Shot in 1980, we see a city in its most forlorn and decayed state, updated in shocking, vibrant tints. Beauty in brutality. It is almost as if the past has been coloured in for us. A reminder what was and still is. Still more now find Glasgow a canvas on which to re-imagine the present. A roll call which includes Document Scotland’s own and others who gravitate to and navigate through the city.

To these canons of work we can now add Jörg Meier, a German who stumbled across Glasgow almost by accident in 2019 and has since embedded himself in the Dear Green Place and befriended her people. His work immediately sets you at ease. Here is a photographer who is comfortable in his surroundings. It is not difficult to imagine him striking up conversations in bars and cafes, his inquisitive nature satisfied by Glasgow’s warm embrace. His work, set out somewhat haphazardly in a project called ‘Aye’, provokes us into emotions, like all photography of value should do. It is, it seems to me, as if he has been here forever. Was that him refusing to pay Maggie’s Poll Tax? Or out on a pro-Independence demo? Or tumbling out of a gig at the Barrowlands? Or even gliding through the crowd to an Old Firm match. He looks at home here, at least that what his photography tells us.

Jörg was initially attracted to Glasgow on an exploratory trip to Scotland which involved a bike ride to Falkirk, alma mater of his favourite band, Arab Strap. But it was Glasgow he fell for. It reminds him, he tells me, of his native Dortmund, of how and where he grew up four decades ago, of the lamented decline of heavy industry, the decay and depression – and cold. With this history at the forefront of his mind, he started looking around Glasgow and seeing parallels in the shapes and forms of his childhood. Soon, he was making connections through a project near Ibrox which helps and supports people who need a second chance in life. It is at this point that his photography breaks on through to the other side.

Away from the rain-lashed streets, the eternally grey skies and banks of housing etched out in geometric shapes and sizes funnelling back from the meandering, sleepy river Clyde, he befriends locals in a way which is both genuine and heartfelt. It feels like a solid relationship is established. His portraiture leans on an idiosyncrasy which hides and reveals much simultaneously. We feel empathy and sympathy, but we still do not know the whole story. It feels good to be inside, although there is a hint of damp menace in the surroundings. Like being in a room heated only with a two-bar electric fire on a cold day outside. Nevertheless, it is warm an intimate.

He trades on ambiguity, in the way so much contemporary German photography does. It is, however, underpinned by an intellect, the difference being it is not cold nor calculated, rather enquiring, inquisitive in nature. It lets Glasgow flourish.

I ask Jörg if his project is finished. The answer is somewhat noncommittal. Like all of us, he is held in check by Covid’s chains, unable for now to rekindle his love for Glasgow, to take up with its people and restart the relationship. There is so much to do when released from the pandemic purgatory. In the meantime, enjoy what he has shown us this far on his journey. I look forward to seeing him working in Glasgow again soon. We’ll say aye to that.

To hear Colin McPherson’s interview with Jörg Meier, please become one of our valued supporters on our Patreon platform.

Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.

Save It For a Rainy Day – Doro Zinn

Save It For a Rainy Day, by photographer Doro Zinn, is currently showing at Glasgow’s Street Level Photoworks until the 8th September.

Document Scotland photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert caught up with Doro via email, kindly she’s allowing us to share some of her photography from The Gorbals, an area of Glasgow which has been much frequented by photographers over the years, including Bert Hardy, Bill Brandt, John Claridge, Hugh Hood, Oscar Marzaroli, and more recently Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert himself, Sarah Amy Fishlock and more.

Document Scotland – How did you get into photography, what do you do, tell us a little about yourself?

I studied Political Sciences and Psychology in Vienna. To gain some working experience I spent a year in Bangkok and worked with UNHCR (the refugee agency of the UN). Around that time I started to photograph my surroundings and the people I met, trying to avoid stereotypes. A group of (conflict-)photographers, who I was friends with, encouraged me to continue taking photos. Back in Vienna, I had made my decision to become a photographer, finished my studies and applied at Ostkreuzschule für Fotografie in Berlin, where I learned to deepen my documentary practice and started to work on long term projects, exploring Identity, marginalization and belonging and the question of how to depict these.

Blessed John Duns Scotus Church, by Doro Zinn
Sharkey’s Bar, by Doro Zinn

How did you come to be in Glasgow shooting in the Gorbals, as you come from Berlin?

I was invited by Street Level Photoworks due to a residency exchange called Photographic Parallels between Glasgow and Berlin. Robert Henderson, a Glaswegian photographer went to Berlin for a month and I came to Glasgow for roughly the same amount of time.

I only had a vague concept of Glasgow before I arrived, but I had read a lot about the different districts to prepare for my stay. In my research on photography in the more destitute areas of Glasgow I discovered Kirsty MacKay and Margaret Mitchell, who’s work I found deeply interesting, engaging and eyeopening. Steven Berkoff’s photos from the 60s, shot in the Gorbals, were on show at SLP and I was shocked how desolate the area looked back then—I decided to walk around Glasgow and ended up in the Gorbals. The area’s mixed housing, the streets and shops and the people I saw sparked my interest instantly. I wanted to know more about the people living there and how they conceived the the changes that had occurred in their surroundings.
“Save it for a Rainy Day“ is a personal encounter with the people living in the Gorbals, a chance to tell their stories, depicting the new and old and ever-changing Gorbals.

Bryan, by Doro Zinn
Gorbals Street/ Norfolk Street, by Doro Zinn

This was the first time in my photographic career that I planned on meeting people on the street. It took quite a few days until i summoned up the courage to just ask people if they wanted to be part of my project. In the end I walked into the Catholic church and started chatting with the very nice lady at the counter, Maureen, who then ended up to be the first person I photographed in the Gorbals. This gave me the confidence to approach other people and she also introduced me to Bridigin’ the Gap, a community organisation working in the Gorbals. They gave me some contacts and invited me to their community meals, where I met more people and from then on it was quite easy.

I mostly meet them upfront to get to know them a little bit and to see if they have a genuine interest in having their portrait taken.
I also spent as much time as they allow me to spend with them.

Jean and Will, by Doro Zinn
Jean and Will’s living room, by Doro Zinn.

I spent basically everyday for 3 weeks in July/August in the Gorbals—walking around, exploring the area and connecting to people.
After realizing back home that some some elements of the series were still missing, I came back in October—this time with a different approach.
During my first stay I was looking around, trying to connect and had a very open approach to what would be happening. The second time I made appointments beforehand and knew exactly where to go.

I shot digital for this project to be able to process the photos straight away and to get an oversight over what I was photographing since 4 weeks isn’t a long time to realise a project. Digital also gives me the opportunity to shoot at night or in darker environments without needing to use flash.

Patricia, by Doro Zinn
Jim and Domino, by Doro Zinn

It was great to work in Glasgow, particularly in the Gorbals. People were very openminded and welcoming. I drank tons of breakfast tea with milk and ate a lot of scones. Every day I discovered new facets of the district.
On the other hand I was staggered to see, how matters of religion and politics were dividing people. In Germany it is no issue at all if someone is Protestant or Catholic. Before I came to Scotland I didn’t know that this conflict existed outside Ireland. Some of the couples I photographed were inter-religious and experienced a lot of opposition by family and society when they married. Most of the people I photographed also went to segregated schools and some were really fond of their religion, taking part in the Orange March for example.
Also the state of the social system came as quite a shock—how little people were supported by the state and how the social played a more obstructing than supporting role. On the other hand it was great to see that organisations like Bridging the Gap and the Men Shed are keeping the community together and make a great difference.

Most of the people I photographed have seen the exhibition and their feedback was throughout positive. Four of the women were even at the opening, which was great!

Maureen’s living room, by Doro Zinn
Mari, by Doro Zinn

The project is finished for now, but I would like to return and continue at some point, because I think there are a lot of characters from the Gorbals I haven’t met and a lot of things I didn’t get the chance to know yet. There’s also some issues I would have liked to focus on more, but lacked the time.

– The work is on show at SLP until September 8th, but are there plans to publish it, or exhibition it elsewhere? If it is published already is there a link to where people can buy the publication online?

Me and Jan Motyka have made a publication, a picture newspaper that is more extensive than the exhibition and grants a deeper view – it is available at SLP or online at http://www.streetlevelphotoworks.org/product/doro-book

The plan is that the exhibition will travel to Berlin, but the dates and venue are not set yet.

– What are you working on now?

I am currently on maternity leave in Italy, but thinking up projects to work on, once I am back in Berlin in October. In the meantime I am taking portraits of the people I meet along the way.

– Many thanks Doro for sharing your work and thoughts with us. It’s much appreciated. 

The Grey City – Blazej Marczak

We’ve been fans of Polish photographer Blazej Marczak’s work for a while now – so we were very pleased to see his project ‘The Grey City’ exhibited as part of the current Street Level Photoworks show ‘Ambit: Photographies from Scotland’ (until 18th June 2017). We’re happy to feature the project here too. After several years in Aberdeen, Blazej has now left Scotland for new adventures in Canada – we can’t wait to see how his new landscape inspires him.

(Title image Harbour, Torry, Aberdeen, Scotland, 31.03.2013, © Blazej Marczak 2013, all rights reserved.)

Bus Stop, Seaton, Aberdeen, Scotland, 07.05.2013, © Blazej Marczak 2013, all rights reserved.

 

‘This is a story of Aberdeen, a personal and subjective impression of this northern city. Bounded by two river mouths, the North Sea and vast green stretches of land, it is often described as the Granite City, though others say it is silver. It is also the energy capital of Europe. The label I feel is the most accurate is the ‘Grey City’. A ubiquitous landscape has been created by the silver granite and a matching sky: this evokes an atmosphere of gloom. I cannot see the glamour as described by others; what I am attracted to are the things that are seemingly commonplace, things which many may see as unimportant and mundane. The silver remains but is becoming stained, a patina encroaching. I am a outsider and I see it as an outsider will, free from nostalgia, raw. Although being a body of work created in and about Aberdeen The Grey City should be treated as open-ended visual poem consisting of archetypes and metaphors not restricted to one literal interpretation.’   – Blazej Marczak

 

Yes Man Jason, Seamount Court, Aberdeen, Scotland, 09.09.2014, © Blazej Marczak 2014, all rights reserved.

 

18.09.2014, Tillydrone, Aberdeen, Scotland, 18.09.2014, © Blazej Marczak 2014, all rights reserved.

 

Modernist Pastoral, Donmouth, Aberdeen, Scotland, 20.04.13, © Blazej Marczak 2013, all rights reserved.

 

House with a lawn, Seaton, Aberdeen, Scotland, 09.01.2015, © Blazej Marczak 2015, all rights reserved.

 

Grand and Neil, Grounds of The Kirk of St Nicholas, Aberdeen, Scotland, 09.06.2014, © Blazej Marczak 2014, all rights reserved.

 

Rear side of the billboards, Great Northern Road, Aberdeen, 14.03.2015, © Blazej Marczak 2015, all rights reserved.

 

Postman, Hillhead, Aberdeen, 18.09.2014, © Blazej Marczak 2014, all rights reserved.

 

By the bonfire, Donmouth, Aberdeen, Scotland, 20.04.13 © Blazej Marczak 2013, all rights reserved.

 

Blazej’s website is here, and on Twitter @MarczakB.

>