Last week, or maybe a couple of weeks ago I went to see the Don McCullin exhibition at the Tate Britain – Again. If you haven’t been you really should go.
Anyway, I was feeling inspired by McCullin’s people and street photographs. I was wandering in the streets behind the Tate looking for a Boris Bike to take me to the Extinction Rebellion demo and I heard a guitar playing.
I thought I would investigate and I met Francois, who was happy to let me take his picture while he played. I hope that I have done him and his playing justice.
I was in Austin, Texas a couple of weeks ago. The city has a reputation for being a bit ‘out there’, independent and non-corporate compared to the rest of the US. One of the ways that this independance expresses itself is through the medium of street art. The walls of the city are covered by these murals and paintings.
They are amazing and if you have time and are in Austin go and see them.
I was recently in Austin, the capital of Texas. It is a fantastic place with stark contrasts of wealth and poverty sitting check by jowl with each other. I tried to record the remarkable colour of the city, but also tried to capture the faces of the men, and it was mainly men, living on the street.
I made a film about the migrant camp in Calais, which I titled ‘I too am human‘ and I am recycling the title for these two photos. Terri and Rici, the names of the two men I photographed are not street people, they are people.
I hope that these pictures show that they can say with total justification ‘I too am human’
I visited the Nottinghill Carnival on the Bank Holiday. The recent fire at Grenfell Tower was a close and present experience, with lots of graffiti like this
And this trying to express, grief, anger, solidarity and strength all at the same time
London’s motifs like the Underground symbol had been co-opted to become the theme of the the Carnival
These symbols told their own story, for people who weren’t there and who like me can’t really know the depth of pain that the local community are going through.
However, by Latimer Road tube station, under the Westway there is a more simple and powerful memorial. Against one of the concrete columns that holds the road up is a collection of homemade posters. Some ask why, some ask for prayer, some ask if bystanders know the whereabouts of the missing. I have only seen similar posters in photographs taken in Post War Germany where people try to locate their missing family members. This was not, however, history, this was the 21st Century and expression of grief and loss in the now, not the past.
I have hesitated to post these pictures but feel, on reflection, that the place needs to be recorded as the images speak with an eloquence and power that is hard to improve on. The loss at Grenfell Tower cannot be ignored, it cannot be rubbed out or removed. As you pass on the Tube you can see the tower.
These pictures sum up a community’s loss and call for, not only empathy, but justice.
When I was a politician I was responsible for open spaces, allotments and community gardens in Reading where I live.
The gardens and allotments were always very serious things and redolent of hard work and graft. No fun at all seemed to be allowed. Contrast this with the Nomadic Community Garden near Brick Lane. It is a wild place full of cucumbers and opera houses, the smell of spliffs glowing in the sunshine and mad artworks.
With its composting toilets it has some of the same smells as the Calais Jungle camp, which I shot last year, but none of the desperation.
So if you are in Brick Lane break out of its plastic pretend East End, ignore the siren calls of hipster Shoreditch and relax in the bliss that is the Nomadic Community Garden.
If you have got this far with the set. This last picture is my favourite, not because it is the best shot but the juxtapositioning of the sign and the railway infrastructure behind says something about the place.
In today’s post-truth, post-Brexit Britain it seems to me that we have more and more people living on our streets. In the town I live in, Reading, there are more and more men and women begging. A number of ‘nests’ have sprung up in doorways and alleyways in Station Road and Friar Street.
This is a first, I have lived here for more than 25 years and even in the depths of the hardest forms of Thatcherism there didn’t seem to be so many people on the streets.
What has gone wrong? Have we enough energy to care?
I can only imagine that government policies have squeezed the bottom of society to such an extent that there is nowhere else to go. This seems to be happening when there is less and less help available. The result is nests on the streets and endless hands held out for any spare change.
The famous photographer Don McCullin stated that he aims to re-humanise photographic subjects who have been de-humanised by their experience. I have been inspired by this to try and record the state of our streets and the nests that are building up in Reading and other towns across the country.
These nests are hard to look at and to walk pass, but they are there and shoppers on their daily path of Reading consumerism are walking by because they see no answer and no solution.
I have put some of my street sleeper photos in a folder and wonder why I walked past these people and why you walk by too.
This is the full set here. Click on the picture to see the set
I have been doing less gig and burlesque photography recently because of a number of commissions and other work. I have also been experimenting with video and hope to make some announcements soon. In the meantime I have been working on my street portfolio and working on building on what I heard Don McCullin say at the NEC. These are some of my pictures, I hope that they resonate with you…..