There are many photographers whose work I have admired but Vivian Maier is the one that left the biggest impression (although coming a close second is Martha Cooper whose photography of the grafitti scene in 70s New York is fantastic). I happened to watch a documentary about her work which, sadly, was only recognised and acknowledged two years before her death when she was destitute. She had amassed 150,000 photos over 5 decades and her photographs only became visible to a wider audience when they were bought in an auction.
She had worked as a full-time nanny but spent all her spare time photographing the people and streets of Chicago, New York and Los Angeles from the 1950s onwards, as well as time spent abroad in Europe.
Her photography was as good an example as anything that we are fascinated by watching others and our curiosity of societal history: the architecture, fashion and daily life in the past. Even now we can look back at ten years ago and be amazed at how much has changed in such a short space of time, never mind 50 or 100 years ago. It wasn't that long ago that there was no internet or mobile phones but we managed to live without them quite easily (some might say that life was much simpler back then).
Her work and my fascination for old photos of Edinburgh (click here on my colourisation) were my inspiration to capture fleeting moments of daily life wherever I happened to be. There is no planning and everything is pure random. Fate determines the moment.
Old man sits with cup of coffee and his trousers rolled up in the sunshine
I was in Birmingham, close to the Bullring, on a hot summers day and I happened to pass by an old man enjoying the good weather. It was a blistering hot day and he had removed his sandals, rolled his trouser legs up and sipped on his drink. His face was etched with years of memories as he sat contented, watching people pass by. I asked if he'd mind me taking a photo of him which he was at ease to allow. His Brummy accent was soft but distinctive as he talked while I quickly snapped some shots. I left knowing I'd probably never see him again but this photo would always be a reminder of the moment.
Old man walks along the East End of Glasgow
For about six years I worked in Glasgow and every lunchtime I'd go for an hour long walk around different parts of the city from west to east. It is a city with a very different vibe from Edinburgh but also with many similarities. Neither city holds exclusivity to areas of destitution, poverty and violence while they are often commonly compared as the 'one with the castle' and 'the industrial city'.
As I was heading eastwards, I passed this old man staggering along, possibly from a nearby pub (the MacKinnon's Bar is about 100 yards from this location) with his flat cap, parka and trainers. His bandy legs struggling to keep him balanced as he concentrated on reaching his destination.
My fascination for old men and pubs probably goes back to when I was a kid and my gran would get me to run down to the Doocot in Drylaw, Edinburgh and retrieve my grandad. Smoke-filled and noisy, men would be clustered round tables playing dominoes with their half pint and whisky chasers within easy reach, laughing and chatting about this and that. It's a rare sight these days. If only I had a camera back then.
MacKinnon's punter sits outside to have a cigarette
I'd often pass MacKinnon's pub in the east end with it's distinctive mural on the wall. The side entrance door would always be open and since people couldn't smoke inside, you'd often find locals stepping out to have a cigarette. On this ocassion I saw a punter sitting having a fag and made small chat with him. I'm sure he would forgive me for saying it, but his face had a very distinctive quality. I mean, he looked like he'd been in a few brawls in his time. He reminded me of my grandad (he'd been a streetfighter in his time as well as a bouncer so he knew how to throw a punch).
Side entrance to MacKinnons Bar in Glasgow with mural
At the opposite end of the spectrum of interesting people, I came across this charming transvestite standing at the doorway of the Underground in the Merchant City in Glasgow. Yet again, standing outside having his cigarette and taking in some of the good weather that day. I tend to ask if I can take a photo of someone which normally receives a positive response and acts as a breaker for a brief chat. He was delighted to have his photo taken and gave me a big smile. It's true what they say: "if everyone was the same, life would be boring".
Transvestite stands at doorway of club
If the last character was gregarious and lively, the next was like something out of The Godfather. Sitting in his solitary chair, this man was taking a cigarette break (maybe it's smokers who are the most interesting). It looked like he maybe worked in a nearby restaurant or bar. He had the build of someone who worked in security, but he looked tired, like it had been a long day. His sad eyes stared at me like a man who's energy was sapped.
Man sits having a cigarette looking like someone out of The Godfather movie
Remember those days when you'd stagger home after a party the night before? Your mouth feels like sandpaper. Your stomach yearns for a fry up and your head is banging like a Brazilian drum band. Well this chap looked like all that after being at a fancy dress dedicated to Slash out of Guns 'n Roses. Like some hungover Johnny Depp Teletubby, his green leopardskin onesy dazzling the eyes of those passing by, I envisioned a cast of many such attired, plied with drink (and maybe some drugs) singing karaoke to Banana Splits. Now THAT would have been a joy to behold.
Man dressed in green leopardskin onesy walks along the street
The summer seems to bring out the strangest of characters to our streets. Everyone wants to get out there and breath in the warm air. People become less stressed. The days are long and we can abandon our layers of jumpers and coats and bring out the colour. This guy certainly went all out Summer Of Love/Woodstock from head to toe. There's a touch of the Charlie Manson about him? Slightly manical?
Man with multi-coloured hair and gold lammy clothes sits having a coffee
His clenched right hand suggests tension but the beads and rainbow braided hair hint at someone into a transcendental outlook in life, but the 'man bag' and his Costa also hints at a keen consumer. There's mixed messages here but a fascinating photo all the same.
Elderly couple sit on a bench
Now I've been married (at the time of writing) for 32 years. Happily, I would add, though my wife might argue with that. Anyway, I captured this very smartly dressed couple sitting in Sauchiehall Street and this is a photo that could suggest many different scenarios.
I'm assuming they are married but they may not be. But let's assume they are. THave they been out shopping? The photo was taken in a pedestrianised boulevard so it is unlikely they are waiting for transportation. More likely they are resting their feet.
The eyes say it all? He looks into space. Are these the eyes of someone thinking "Dragged around shopping...again"? The lady is wearing sunglasses but she could be looking in his direction. Have they had a disagreement? She looks calm and refined in her chic clothing with her manicured nails and bouffant hair. There is class and style in this pair.
But the photo may be misleading. It is but a fraction of a second and they may well be catching their breath before moving on. Couples who have been together for many years are comfortable in their silence. They don't find the need to fill the empty void with irreverent blabber. Maybe they've had a lovely day spending their money and are about to head off to a lovely bar, restaurant or event to meet friends. All is well.
Child looks over at a collection of balloons for sale
I know what she's thinking. Desire. So many to choose from but the hard part is persuading the one with the money to buy one. It's the challenge of every child - getting what they want. It's the begining of the learning curve.
All these balloons look so tempting and she is transfixed while the adult is oblivious (or deliberately ignoring them). Maybe she thinks as there is no-one apparently around they are freely available as they float, anchored to the spot.
It is innocence and pre-meditated planning all in one photo.
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All the best