The City by Donnie MacLean

Street photography from Glasgow

Donnie MacLean isn’t interested in holding your hand and gently persuading you that everything is going to be ok.  Subtle isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when viewing his work, often presented as a near impenetrable wall of faces, each fighting to avoid your attention, pleading with you to avert your gaze.  A barrier which is blurred, grainy and drained of colour, each face melting into the other as it attempts to remain anonymous.  Overwhelming by design, Maclean’s imagery compels the viewer towards the impossible task of taking it all in at once.

There is a definite rush on first viewing of Donnie’s work, one derived from his ability to bring the busy anonymity of the city into the relatively peaceful gallery space. There is a level of showmanship in MacLean’s presentation methods which illustrate those subtleties which are initially missed. The photographer is in control here at all times. It is the audience which, momentarily at least, is not. 

Once the viewer is able to step back and focus on the individual images it becomes clear that MacLean’s message is one of loneliness within the crowded landscape, with hoods, scarves and earphones all symbolic of the barriers we place between ourselves and those around us. His photographs capture those people who share the streets with us, but never enter into our internal narrative. They remain shadowy outlines, barely distinguishable from one another, yet in photographing them Donnie has allowed us to stop for a moment and take it all in. He allows us to realise how little we interact with our fellow citizens. Donnie’s vision of the city is one which highlights a lack of humanity, but allows the viewer a place to reflect upon that and perhaps find ways to address the issues on a personal level. – John McDougall.

To listen to Donnie Maclean talk about his street photography please visit the recent post on our Patreon page, where we bring you exclusive insights, interviews and behind-the-scenes with the photographers we feature.

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