Collecting The Gorbals.

A Stroll Through The Gorbals

To walk in the Gorbals area of Glasgow is to walk through a district of this city immortalised in iconic photographs, a district whose name is known far and wide, for better or for worse, and whose history has been captured in silver by some of the great photojournalists of the British post-War years. I couldn’t help but ruminate on this while there, in the Gorbals (and why is it always the Gorbals, never just Gorbals?), during a recent photographic assignment.

Radical Independence Campaign mass canvassing in support of Scottish independence, in the Gorbals, Glasgow, Scotland, June 2014. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2014, all rights reserved.
Radical Independence Campaign mass canvassing in support of Scottish independence, in the Gorbals, Glasgow, Scotland, June 2014. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2014, all rights reserved.

I was there to photograph canvassing and leafleting by supporters of the Radical Independence Campaign during the run-up to the recent referendum on Scottish independence. It was a sunny day, a Sunday, the streets had colour from the flowers people tended in gardens and from the colour of the shutters on a modern-designed apartment block. It was a million miles from some of those iconic images I carried with me in my mind, of Oscar Marzaroli’s fifty-odd Shades of Grey, or Bert Hardy’s two little ragamuffin boys forever linked arm-in-arm heading off on an immortal chore.

The Gorbals, © Sarah Amy Fishlock 2014, all rights reserved.
The Gorbals, © Sarah Amy Fishlock 2014, all rights reserved.
The Gorbals, © Chris Leslie 2008, all rights reserved.
The Gorbals, © Chris Leslie 2008, all rights reserved.

As I walked the streets it was impossible to recognise any landmarks from those iconic photographs, all had changed, all had gone, buildings torn down and their inhabitant’s memories moved on. All that was left to remember of those earlier times were the black and white images and the infamous tales they tell of poverty and deprivation, of children finding hope and entertainment on heaps of rubble and within chalked games on walls.

No one perhaps knows these Gorbals images better that Neil Carragher, a native of Hamilton, Scotland, but now retired and living in Canada. For the past decade or so Neil and his wife Blanche have worked hard amassing a collection of vintage photographs of the Gorbals and know the streets well. After my own sojourn around the same-but-different streets, photographing in digital colour, I spoke with Neil about their print collection.

Neil’s interest in these photographs stemmed, perhaps not so unsurprisingly, from originally collecting over a 30-year period art work by the Scottish colourists, and from owning “six or seven Joan Eardley paintings, one of which was a little boy with baggy pants hitched up, an old belt, an orange sweater and a skelly eye. It was so touching. I bought that one just when my mother died which was about 1993 and I still have it here in my collection. I love Joan Eardley’s work.

“I’ve travelled fairly extensively and left Glasgow immediately after my first degree, and I went to London and then to Switzerland. Putting that Scottish collection together helped me keep in touch with Scotland I guess. I knew all the dealers and auction houses over the years, but when my mother died I bought that little Scottish Joan Eardley. It was a chalk drawing on glass paper. And as I kept looking at that I kept remembering the areas of Glasgow that I knew when I went to university between 1956-1960 in Glasgow, which was just about the end of the Gorbals.”

I wondered if Neil had moved onto collecting the prints of Marzaroli’s street waifs and Bert Hardy’s street urchins as he had been one himself. But no, Neil explained, “I think you have to give that to Joan Eardley, as I had about half a dozen of her drawings and paintings, and the more I looked at them the more I remembered my childhood. So I wasn’t part of the Gorbals, but I did observe and when I was at university I stayed in Townhead, so used to see those children playing around outside. So when I started, I’m a keen photographer myself, mostly a travel photographer, so I decided that there had to be some remnants or there had to be some record of the Gorbals and Glasgow at those times existing. So I started a search which during the first few years was very painful indeed because I couldn’t get anything. I went to all the newspapers… but I discovered all, most of the newspapers as they were taken over by English and American companies, destroyed their old images. It’s scandalous, it’s the heritage gone. Those reporters should have been in the middle of it…”

But to be a collector is to not be put off easily, the hunt is after all sometimes the reward itself. Neil continued, “so I managed to contact Oscar Marzaroli’s widow, through a film maker friend and she was very reluctantly to see me but after a while she realised I was quite serious and I met her several times and she gave me access to the files that, the photos that Oscar left, which are a good part of my collection. Some of them, he did his own printing, so some of them are not brilliant, but certainly they are the original stuff. I loved his photographic eye. So I think I got more or less the cream of the crop from her and she told me basically he only had one showing since the time he died and he didn’t sell any from that, so it thought that was pretty scandalous too.” As with many artists it seems to achieve success or fame, Neil remarked, “you have to die first.”

But Neil’s collection has grown large over the years, Marzaroli’s images were “the start and I had to go to England to find photojournalists who had been sent up to Scotland after the war to photograph the worst slums in Europe. And through various methods I managed to contact one or two of the widows of those photojournalists. And I also got a collection, which had come from the old Picture Post magazine, which ended up in Chicago. And I bought a bunch of those from a professional photographic dealer in Chicago and also in New York. But none of those old photographs came from Glasgow or from Scotland full stop.”

To peruse the images of Neil’s collection is to be reminded of the great power of photojournalism in the post-War years, of the great names of Picture Post, or of pre-eminent photographers Bill Brandt, of John Bulmer, Grace Robertson, Margaret Watkins and many more.

Neil reminisced, “As I continued looking for old Glasgow photographs I found that Glasgow wasn’t unique of course, Liverpool was the second port and had just as many problems with immigration and resettling people as Glasgow had. Then I went on to collect photographs of London after the Second World War with children playing in the streets. The fact was I just couldn’t find any more Gorbals photographs but I liked the theme and I thought it was concentrated enough to continue picking up those older photos.

I think I view the collection as an historical statement which should be preserved and used for research into historic social issues that Scotland and even part of those blitzed areas in London and Liverpool have. The reason for that is I found people, my contacts in Glasgow and Edinburgh, were not in the least interested in that time period. It was almost like it was a black era. Scotland may have had that but it was only a microcosm of the society and therefore we should forget about it. And I don’t think it should be forgotten at all, because these places like the Gorbals produced people who worked extremely hard, whom a lot of them emigrated and have done extremely well. We should take that as being a significant positive rather than being a negative.”

Did Neil class himself with these people I wondered? “I do. I had to leave Scotland in order to get on because the opportunities within Scotland itself were very limited.”

But those opportunities he went on to find enabled him to build, in time, his large collection of photographs, “I think it is about 300 prints. I’ve never sat down and counted, but someone told me, I said there must be 200 and they said no there is 300 here. But that is somebody who was going through it with a toothcomb with the objective of taking it and putting it into an archival collection.

Well it ended up as not just Gorbals, Gorbals was the principal theme and as I said I ran out of work to collect or people who would give me some work. My objective now is to give it away in one piece.”

I was intrigued to know of the options available to a collector specialising in vintage prints of one particular city neighbourhood, from a very particular era. What images existed, was it solely waif-like children playing on street corners, or was there more to be seen? Neil explained, “Oh, quite a few, I wasn’t interested in particularly general landscape work, but there is one or two showing the demolition of the Gorbals but that is enough just as the background. I was more interested in the social side of it. How the children amused themselves, you know children have a capacity to enjoy themselves no matter what the conditions are. And I had to have photographs of the situations in pubs, now you see some older ones there. I actually commissioned a young photographer, Johan Campbell, who comes from Glasgow, to go back over and photograph, to go inside the pubs of Glasgow, and of Celtic supporters, and also to photograph outside the games. I also have work by David Gillanders, I got to know him quite well. I just love his work. I think he is the only serious social photographer that I’ve encountered in recent years. So I thought I had to include his work. So it’s not just about children, I mean Glasgow on a Friday night it shows the vicious side of it, but then that does exist. And I think it should be recorded. It’s not meant to be a sweety confectionery type of collection. It’s meant to be hard and tough. I’m not sure if that comes over.” He continued, “I’ve got a series done by a South African artist of men coming out of the shipyards and in the pubs, standing there you know with a pint and a half, they’re getting drunk before they go home and give what’s left to their wives.”

I asked Neil what his wife Blanche, who hails from Ayrshire, thinks of his collecting habit, “…my wife has put a stop to this for the time being. She says I have to find a home for it, you know preserving photographs is not an easy task. They have to be in terms of temperature and humidity well preserved. I’ve done my best here but now I need storage. So I’ve certainly paused it for further reflection. Let’s put it that way and this collection as such stands on its own and I think my next job is to find a home in Scotland for it.”

I was intrigued as to whether or not his wife lends a curatorial eye when viewing work to purchase, Neil laughed, “Ha! She’s a good critic, let’s put it that way!”

And what of the work that escaped, sometimes even good collectors can’t find everything. Without pause, Neil replied, “yes there was a guy– Joseph McKenzie. I met Joseph half a dozen times in his home. I viewed his collection. I would have died to have some of those works. He was not budging. And we kept a correspondence, over several years.”

And now in the era when everything is limited edition and aimed to be collectible, with the internet and it’s plethora of selling and buying sites, auction houses and yard sales, is it easier now to collect these prints? “Getty bought most of the Picture Post and it is easy to look at those photographs and buy modern prints but that was not my interest. So yes you can. I was interested in getting older prints as original as possible, as close to the date as I could that they were photographed. That’s part of the art of collecting I think and that’s why I think the collection has a little bit of heft. Yes you could put together a modern print version of the collection very easily indeed.”

As a working photographer here in Scotland myself, and as a co-founder and member of Document Scotland – a collective of four working photographers in the documentary field, I was intrigued to ask Neil his view of the industry here. He was happy to share his insight, “I found very few contacts in Scotland that I was able to make that were the least interested in photography. You’re a photographer yourself you correct me if I’m wrong. I contacted half a dozen of the photographic clubs and so on, pah, they wouldn’t give me the time of day. I don’t know why, when, if I do that in North America I usually get some sort of feedback, it’s easier to make contacts. I don’t know.

In terms of my art collection, none of the people who you’d regularly go to for let’s call it fine art, were interested in photography. I think the one exception is the Fine Arts Society that put a collection of Marzaroli’s work three or four years ago but it was just a six week ‘let’s see if we can sell some of these’ type of thing…Why there is not a deeper interest in, let’s call it fine art photography, I don’t know.”

“When I talked to David Peat before he died, I bought his collection, he hadn’t sold any. So I bought the whole collection that he had and he kept the original which has been given to the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, but I bought the only copy that he made. He was of course in the business for a long time and he was echoing what you’re saying. Nothing has changed and Marzaroli was the same, and essentially died in poverty. Tough field photography for a professional. That’s not the case in North America, or France, Germany. I think it is easier if people understand it is a fine art and to be encouraged. It will come but you know Scotland always was a wee bit behind.”

And is there a difference between collecting within Scotland and England? “My experience of England is mostly London, which is a bit of an international microcosm.” And with a smile in his voice, “there’s three or four people there over the years who I’ve dealt with, thieves and vagabonds, but never the less they do try.”

And from these thieves and vagabonds, I wondered does Neil collect any contemporary Scottish photography? Why only stop in the days of Picture Post, even life in the Gorbals now comes in glorious technicolour? “I haven’t tried, nor would I know how to source it. That’s really what I’m saying to you. I did have a contemporary Scottish art collection, young people, contemporary, looking for a sale. What I loved about that was meeting the artist and him explain his work and how he went about it. Now if there was such a medium available in Scotland for contemporary photography I think that would be very encouraging, but I didn’t find it.

Scottish contemporary art is very expressionist, they are certainly very different to what is produced in England and that is why I loved it. I found Scottish contemporary art to be very creative and I’m sure that is exactly the same with photography.”

I assure Neil at this point that there is good contemporary photography being produced here, Document Scotland have been showing work by many photographers at our salons, in our publications and shows. We, as a photography collective, try to enable one viewing platform where collectors like Neil can see work from the young and enthusiastic, as well as old and experienced photographers who are still out there, still walking the streets, carrying colour digital or old school black and white and who are still producing work in Scotland. I mention to Neil that Document Scotland recently had the honour of Glasgow-born photojournalist Harry Benson CBE generously accepting our invitation that he become the collective’s Honorary Patron, and I had noticed that Neil, in his collection, has a few of Harry’s prints.

“I met Harry in New York, when we’re talking about contemporary photography and contemporary art and I said I like to meet the artist and talk of why they’re doing their work. I met Harry in his apartment in New York and he told me of his life and I took a few prints from him. Particularly the one in Kelvingrove Park, the kids in the fountain, which is a famous one, I wanted to get it from him. That made a big difference, and he talked about how tough it was for him and how it’s only in recent years he’s been accepted as being a social photographer in Scotland. He’s just a lovely man. He’s a survivor too. For me meeting him made me enjoy his photography more. That’s the link I think.”

Glasgow-born photographer Harry Benson, at home in New York, © Stephen McLaren/Document Scotland 2014. All rights reserved.
Glasgow-born photographer Harry Benson, at home in New York, © Stephen McLaren/Document Scotland 2014. All rights reserved.

And with that Neil accepted my invitation to join Document Scotland for a salon event next time he is home in Scotland, an evening when Scottish contemporary photographers who walk the same streets as Bert Hardy did, entering similar houses as Bill Brandt and Thurston Hopkins, can share work, share thoughts and hopes and raise a glass to those who went before but whose prints still reflect the way ahead.

All text © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Document Scotland 2014. All rights reserved.

The images reproduced above do not form part of Neil Carragher’s Gorbals collection and are used as examples of contemporary work from the Gorbals area, by contemporary photographers.

Sarah Amy Fishlock‘s image comes from her series ‘Citizens’ – ‘During my time as Artist in Residence at the Citizens Theatre between July 2013 and February 2014 I worked on a range of participatory photographic projects with theatre staff, audiences and community members. Citizens documents theatre staff in their unique working environment, as well as the changing landscape around the theatre, situated in the Gorbals, Glasgow.’

Chris Leslie has been documenting the changes in the east end of Glasgow in his project Glasgow Rennaissance, and in his new book ‘Nothing is Lost‘.

Thanks to Marc Boulay, formerly of the St. Andrews University Special Collections Photography Archive, for the introduction to Neil Carragher and his collection of Gorbals images.

And of course thank you to Neil Carragher for sparing time to chat and his kindness in allowing us to write about his collection. Thanks Neil!

See also The Gorbals, by photographer John Claridge, from Cafe Royal Books.

Empty Shops

EMPTY SHOP, by Kenneth Gray

Starting in July 2014, the Empty Shop series came about more by chance than planning. Whilst walking my dog around Edinburgh, with a camera ever-ready, I started to see shops which had lain empty for some time, stripped of fittings and ready for let or sale. Desolate and unused and yet ripe with possibilities – each one holding a unique story about life, society and rebirth. There is however a real sadness to some of these images, melancholic overtones of failed businesses, unsuccessful companies and the reality of today’s economy. According to The Scotsman, “Almost 40 per cent of empty shops in Scotland have been vacant for more than three years”.

Home Street, Edinburgh - 15/10/14 ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2014.
Home Street, Edinburgh – 15/10/14 ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2014.

I’m fascinated by these places which are neither one thing nor another – liminal, they inhabit a temporary space between states. Once I started to notice these empty shops, I saw more and more of them on an almost daily basis. They are hidden in plain sight, overlooked and passed by; unused places waiting for a purpose.

The first space I really noticed was a vacant shop on George Street; a shell, whitewashed and illuminated by the sun – devoid of any colour and truly empty. Others appear to have been vacated in a hurry, whilst yet more are almost clinical in their appearance.

West Port, Edinburgh - 07/01/15, ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2015.
West Port, Edinburgh – 07/01/15, ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2015.
George IV Bridge, Edinburgh - 20/11/14. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2014.
George IV Bridge, Edinburgh – 20/11/14. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2014.
Rose Street, Edinburgh - 08/01/15. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2015.
Rose Street, Edinburgh – 08/01/15. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2015.

There is often a door or doorway leading into another room, which could suggest either the past or the future for the shop. They also remind me of minimal stage sets, devoid of actors, waiting for a character to make an entrance.

As the series has gone on, I’ve tried to refine exactly what should appear in it. I decided to exclude shops which were in the process of being let or sold, so it’s the spaces which are caught in limbo that I want to record: the ‘null’ spaces. In some cases, the shops have had temporary reprieves and have been used as Festival venues before reverting to empty spaces. But it’s the time when they just lie vacant that interests me.

Dundas Street, Edinburgh - 08/01/15. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2015.
Dundas Street, Edinburgh – 08/01/15. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2015.
Princes Street, Edinburgh - 24/08/14. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2014.
Princes Street, Edinburgh – 24/08/14. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2014.
rederick Street, Edinburgh - 26/11/14. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2014.
rederick Street, Edinburgh – 26/11/14. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2014.

I have not tried to be artful with the photographs – they are taken with a fixed lens camera pressed against the shop window and I enjoy those limitations as they let the space speak for itself. I’m not trying to impose anything on the space, I am simply recording a pause in the history of each location. There is a social and political dimension to the photograph, but it’s left for the viewer to interpret it.

Gilmore Pl, Edinburgh - 16/01/2015. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2015.
Gilmore Pl, Edinburgh – 16/01/2015. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2015.
Howe Street, Edinburgh - 20/11/14. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2015.
Howe Street, Edinburgh – 20/11/14. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2015.

Although some motifs occur across a few photographs – fire extinguishers, chairs and step ladders, the variety of textures, colours (or lack of), remnants and potential is fascinating. Some areas in Edinburgh clearly have more empty shops than others, but I have been surprised how much they are spread across the city. I’ve explored Tollcross, Newington, Morningside, Bruntsfield, Marchmont, the New Town and Stockbridge; my next forays will take me to Leith and Gorgie amongst others.

At the moment, the series has focused mainly on Edinburgh, but I would like to explore other towns and cities across Scotland, especially East Kilbride which “has the highest vacancy rate of all Scottish towns at 33 per cent”.

The complete series so far is at and a new portfolio site.

Roseneath Pl, Edinburgh - 9/12/14. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2014.
Roseneath Pl, Edinburgh – 9/12/14. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2014.
Tollcross, Edinburgh - 4/12/14. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2014.
Tollcross, Edinburgh – 4/12/14. ©Kenneth Gray, all rights reserved 2014.

A new collaboration

We are delighted to announce a partnership with the Scotland’s oldest university that will see our photography become part of one of country’s most important photographic archives.

This new collaboration between the University of St Andrews and Document Scotland will unite some of the oldest photographs in Scotland with contemporary documentary images. The initiative will see the university – custodians of the oldest photographic collection in the country – support our photographers’ work on current projects. Between us, we will develop a rich new strand to the collection that will ultimately form a unique cultural resource for generations to come.

His Father's Breeks. Photograph by D O Hill & R Adamson, 1844.
His Father’s Breeks. Photograph by D O Hill & R Adamson, 1844.
Boyd Tunnock CBE. Photograph by Sophie Gerrard, 2013.
Boyd Tunnock CBE. Photograph by Sophie Gerrard, 2013.

This will mean that images being made today by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Stephen McLaren, Sophie Gerrard and Colin McPherson will reside in the archive alongside work by early photographic pioneers such as Hill and Adamson, John Thomson, Thomas Annan and James Valentine.

The four members of Document Scotland are currently working on projects which reflect the current state of the nation. As a non-political collective, Document Scotland’s work looks at stories, themes and ideas which form a backdrop to current affairs. This important new strategic partnership will support contemporary photography at this pivotal time in Scotland’s modern history.

In the Vault, Dundee. Photograph by James Valentine and Sons, ca. 1865s
In the Vault, Dundee. Photograph by James Valentine and Sons, ca. 1865.
Glasgow doo'cot in the snow. Photograph by Stephen McLaren, 2012.
Glasgow doo’cot in the snow. Photograph by Stephen McLaren, 2012.

Colin McPherson commented, “We are very excited about this partnership with one of the world’s most celebrated and important photography collections. The financial and logistical support offered to us by the University of St Andrews will allow Document Scotland to record what is happening in the country today and continue the important work of creating a visual legacy for this and future generations. We look forward to working with the university’s Special Collections Division and contributing to their extensive and world-renowned photography archive.”

The university’s Special Collections Division holds over 800,000 images from the 1840s onwards. Building upon the strength of its 19th and 20th century holdings, the partnership with Document Scotland launches a new forward-looking direction for the future character of the Photographic Collection. The University of St Andrews is funding a substantial acquisition of new work by Document Scotland to be incorporated into the Library’s historic Photographic Collection. By proactively building relationships with Scotland’s photographic community, the university aims to both support and safeguard contemporary, socially relevant and poignant documentary photography for future scholarship and discovery.

A Cyprian Maid. Photograph by John Thomson, 1878
A Cyprian Maid. Photograph by John Thomson, 1878.
Rangers football fan. Photograph by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2012.
A Rangers football fan. Photograph by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2012.

The University’s Photographic Archivist, Marc Boulay, said, “Our reputation was built on the strength of our holdings of Scotland’s earliest photographic practitioners. But our collection needs to look to the future. If we are to represent the visual heritage of Scotland, it is essential that we support talented photographers who are creating vibrant and engaging work today. Our bonds with these photographers will ensure that the future of our collection is rich, providing a uniquely Scottish cultural resource.”

Scott Monument, Edinburgh. Photograph by D O Hill & R Adamson, 1843.
Scott Monument, Edinburgh. Photograph by D O Hill & R Adamson, 1843.
Pro-Independence demo, Edinburgh. Photograph by Colin McPherson, 2013.
Pro-Independence demo, Edinburgh. Photograph by Colin McPherson, 2013.

Document Scotland are looking forward to working with the University of St. Andrews and thank Marc Boulay and his colleagues for their interest in, and support for, our work.

Crossing Paths

Scottish photographer Niall McDiarmid was recently awarded a prize for portraiture in the International Photography Awards for his current Crossing Paths portraiture project,  an ongoing project which stands as a social document of the looks and styles of people on the streets of the UK at present. Niall kindly agreed to answer a few emailed questions from Document Scotland about the background to his project, and to share with us some of the images from the series which you can see in the Niall McDiarmid Crossing Paths photographic portfolio.

Platform 5, York Railway Station. ©Niall McDiarmid 2012, all rights reserved.


Niall, when did the project begin?

I had been working on a similar smaller project near to where I live in South London for seven or eight years before this, focussing on interesting characters who I met in my everyday life.

So, in essence, Crossing Paths has been a few years in the making. However the main project really got going properly in early 2011 when I branched out to cover the whole of London, then the across the South East of England shortly after and then later in the year, the whole of the UK.

Is the project self-initiated, or a great commission ?

Yes, it’s a personal project – my own record of characters I’ve met throughout the UK in these past two years.

Where and why do you go to the particular towns, how do you choose the locations? What are the logistics of traveling around?

I stop at towns where I happen to be for commissions as a commercial photographer, places where I’m on holiday with my family or occasionally I just take short trips out.

You were asking your Facebook readers and Twitter users about their favourite towns, what was the aim of that ?

Having visited so many towns across the country this past year, I was interested to know if people had favourite towns and what their relationships with those towns was. A pattern seemed to emerge whereby those of us who now live in the large conurbations still have huge fondness for the smaller towns where they either grew up or in many cases went to college or university.

How does your use of social media play into the project?

Social media users, particularly those on Twitter, are extremely supportive of other liked-minded people. Building a core audience which can get involved in a project from the beginning is a great way of generating support and driving a body of work on. Starting a large project such as this as an individual with no formal or financial backing can be extremely daunting and hard to pull off. So the goodwill and encouragement of peers and friends is a huge benefit. In many ways I feel those who have joined in and spread the word about Crossing Paths are part of the story too.

However, other than generating support, I haven’t used social media to shape the narrative or direction of the project.

The images are very clean, and it seems hard to place how’ve they been shot. Are they on film or digital ?

They are all shot on medium format film.

How much are you shooting per person?

I generally only take two or three shots maximum per person.

A lot of the locations really seem to fit the clothes the people are wearing, are you moving the sitters to pre-chosen locations, or shooting where you find them?

No I just photograph people somewhere very close to where I first say hello.

What are your feelings on the fashions you see people wearing at present? Is it hard to find uniqueness?  How much do the styles and looks change as you cross the country?

I don’t really have a particular interest in fashion or style. However uniqueness in peoples’ appearance is important to me. British people are not afraid to stick out from the crowd and many positively enjoy being different. One of this country’s great strengths is our ability to be individuals and be proud of that. It is also a sign of our nation’s tolerance that in most cases no matter what your age, sex, ethnicity or social background you can be as you wish, wear what you like and walk down any high street without feeling alienated.

As to finding unique people, I suppose we are all unique – it’s just some people are more unique than others and I seem to have a knack of finding of them.

How are you choosing people in the street, what are you looking for? Is there a type of person you look for?

I can’t say how I choose a particular person because I don’t know. They are all just people who walk by me, cross my path and catch my eye. However, looking through the project as a whole, one common theme that seems to connect all the individuals is a certain charisma and confidence.

How much do you interact with the people, a few minutes, or are you also interviewing them/chatting away?

Being a photographer is a great excuse to meet and find out about great people. Through my teens and into my 20s I was a very shy person. However I gradually grew out of that and now there is nothing I enjoy more than stopping and chatting to whoever I meet – shooting the breeze as they in the US. Some people I speak to for quite a while, others just a few seconds. However I don’t interview them. This is solely a visual project.

What is the outcome of Crossing Paths so far, has the project been exhibited or published?

I hope to exhibit the pictures at different locations across the UK. I would also like to spend more time taking portraits in areas near to any exhibitions I can organise. Publishing is another possibility but I haven’t got any plans at this stage.

How do you view the work, is it documentary? Or portraiture?

I hope the project stands as a social document about people on the streets of the UK at this time.

Many thanks to Niall for sharing the work.

To see more of Niall’s work-  Niall McDiarmid’s photography website, Crossing Paths website, Crossing Paths Facebook page, and Niall McDiarmid on Twitter.


Olympics Parade, Glasgow, September 2012

These photographs were taken during the recent Olympics and Para-Olympics homecoming celebration in Glasgow. The theme of the event was celebrating, “Scotland’s Greatest Team”, which seemed a substantially different message to the “Support Team GB” message that had predominated during the Games.

I was interested to find out how onlookers and supporters of the athletes would resolve the tension between those two national and sporting allegiances. I was surprised to find that the Team GB motif, whether shown by flags and mascots or in chants, was still very strong.

It is hard to argue with the assertion that the Olympics has subtly changed the dynamics of the Scottish referendum debate. However, it was also hard to argue with the strength of feeling that was shown for the Scottish athletes who were being celebrated and who gave the parade its energy and passion.


11 years on.

Today whilst driving to a photography assignment near Stirling, Scotland, I heard on the radio that it is September 11th, the 11th anniversary of the World trade Centre bombings by Al Qaeda. There has been much said before about it obviously, and nothing much that I can add, other than I went there shortly afterwards and photographed. It so happened I was there at the time when New Yorkers were able to see “Ground Zero” for the first time. The streets were opening up, and police barriers were moving back on a daily basis, and I worked the street, photographing all the people who came to look, to pay their respects and  pray. I shot for a few days on those streets, and produced a set of images that I am still happy with to this day. You can see those photographs of Ground Zero/ World Trade Centre after 9/11 here.

This image below I remember being one of the early images I shot, and it perhaps drew my attention due to the Scottish Saltire flag I noticed hanging. People from all countries and all nationalities were present. That was one of the most impressive things, the cross section of humanity who came there.

A New York policeman stands on Broadway beside flowers, a Scottish flag, and cards of condolences to the victims of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre buildings in Lower Manhattan by Al-Qaeda terrorists. New York, America, October 2001. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2001, All rights reserved.


I wrote these words about the images at the time:

October 2001. New York, USA.

I’m in New York. With my good friend Jason I work the streets of Broadway and Lower Manhattan, edging around the perimeters of Ground Zero, photographing. We watch the police barriers move back each day, revealing more and more of the devastation. We watch as tourists and locals alike come to visit, to look, to stand silently, to pay respects. All are there; whites, blacks, hispanics, Jewish; old, young; students, business people, some from out of town, some not. Everyone stands and looks. I photograph the crowds, and no one objects. Dust still falling from the carnage behind me lands on my arms, and every day I’m there from 8am until evening, watching this cross section of humanity. I only work a section of street about 200 metres long, but all pass through, a constant, changing wave of people, a reflection of all nations. There’s a feeling in the air: poignancy, history, fear, solidarity, shock, numbness. All are standing straining to see the carnage, reflecting on the damage and the loss, the loss past and the loss to come.

New Yorkers, and visitors from all over the world, stop on lower Broadway to look at the smouldering buildings of the World Trade Centre complex, and to remember and pay tribute to the victims of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre buildings in Lower Manhattan by Al-Qaeda terrorists. New York, America, October 2001. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2001, all rights reserved.


And whilst on the subject this evening I saw this article about the photographs of American photographer James Nachtwey, from the actual day of September 11th 2001 itself, and how the appearance of his images has been adjusted over time.



Listen to China’s Voice

In June of this year the Document Scotland photographers were invited by the Beijing Municipality Government to be part of their ‘World Photographers Focusing on Beijing’ project. Each year since 1999 this project has  taken place with 10 photographers from across the globe being invited to participate, to visit Beijing, to photograph and capturing their own viewpoints of the ever-changing megalopolis.

The resulting images, some of which you see here, more can be seen in the Portfolio section of this website, were exhibited at the Barbican Centre, in London, UK, during the 2012 Beijing Culture Week, which coincided with the London Olympics.

Shanghai, China. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2012


“To this first-time visitor, Beijing with its six ring-roads, twenty-million souls and shiny-new skyline was hard to work out. Taxi drivers needed maps printed for them and tube trains journeys could take over an hour to span the city, but thankfully having a camera helps make sense of this mega-city. Contrary to what I expected people were not suspicious of a tall white foreigner with a lump of expensive Japanese camera gear round his neck. All roads, streets and un-promising alley-ways were open to an inquisitive walker and only once was I asked not to take a picture. Contradictions abound in this epic urban phenomenon and I hope I managed to show some of that in the pictures I returned with.” – Stephen McLaren.


Beijing, China, 2012. ©Stephen McLaren 2012, All rights reserved.


A group of tourists standing in line outside the Forbidden City.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2012, all rights reserved


“This was my first visit to China, a country which I had heard much about, but knew little of. The images I had in my mind of China, its history and its place in the modern world, were monochrome or cliched. What confronted me in metropolitan Beijing inhabited a completely different realm. I was fascinated by the Chinese people’s love for their land, their devotion to their culture and their passion for the historic buildings and sites of worship and conquest. They flock in their hundreds of thousands to visit the great edifices of the Chinese empire past and present. And where half a century ago they might have stood in Tiananmen Square in green khaki and Mao hats, today they sport the paraphernalia of the international tourist, hungrily buying up souvenirs and taking gigabytes of photographs. This is what I saw them seeing.” –  Colin McPherson.