Documenting Britain


For Documenting Britain, my work will centre around photographing areas of Scotland that could be categorized as Edgelands, where the urban sprawl meets nature. Visual inspiration comes from The New Topographics; my work is concerned with geometric shapes, formal composition and employs minimal or no post-processing.

The view from your balcony, or “On Photographing The Things You Should.”

A brittle layer of sugary snow and the last of the wind-tossed leaves makes underfoot conditions treacherous; it is no time for slick 23mm tyres, despite the will of legs and lungs to brave the air, thick as it is with whirling flakes. A swift dash along the Links for the bus, de-gloved hands turned claw-like in the scrabble for pocket change. Two others are at the stop; a be-Ugged twenty-something and a nervous-looking woman carrying a clear plastic bag full of clothes, hopping from foot to foot, her cheeks flush with the cold and a smear of milky snot on the back of her bare hand. Onto the number 21, coins in the slot, settle down at a free seat near the back, Xmas book fished from the bag where a meagre lunch nestles down beside old bus tickets and spare socks. 45 seconds in, as the bus makes the drag up Restalrig Road the noise begins.

It’s at first a tinny, indistinct squall from the speaker as the bus lurches into gear. As the road levels and traffic clears, you can hear the hi-hat sample and generic female vocal rise and fill the air. It’s the hopping clear-plastic-bag lady, her pink phone blasting bargain basement techno, she singing along tunelessly. Clearly still enjoying the dull glow of whatever reverie occupied the night before, oblivious to the other passengers with their heads buried in free newspapers or tapping at their phones, she mumbles a loose approximation of the next track, something you vaguely recognise from local radio. John Legend, perhaps? Does he know someone’s butchering his song, 5000 miles away on a bus in Scotland? You glance round to a new murmur of noise. There’s a girl behind you lambasting a colleague for some work-related ineptitude.

“It’s just disgustin’. Ah telt her yesterday that ah wisnae gonnae put up with it any mair. That’s it Michelle. Ah’m fucking sick ay it. Jist .. tell her .. Hello? Hello? Ah for fuc …”

She hangs up, dings the bell and shuffles past you.

Your eyes still blinking off sleep, you look around at the other passengers. An assortment of menial workers, grannies on their way to the Jewel for tea bags and the Peoples Friend. No-one seems that bothered by the mini electro show still ongoing. Then you realise that it’s perhaps only you that is annoyed, who wants to tap the woman on the shoulder and in the politest way possible ask her to turn it down, or better, turn it off. You think perhaps of taking out your phone and taking a picture, hoping to get some of the misty window in the frame alongside the woman and her clear plastic bag full of clothes. You think that as a photographer you should be charged with the desire to record, to commit to pixels – the technology available to you – this small morning vignette. You’re composing this story in your head all the while. Then you think of what you like to photograph, those things that stand up to whatever view of the world you think your lens needs to capture. You’re not Winogrand; you’d never blaze in like the Leith Bruce Gilden, flashes aloft, then on to the next. Each moment like this reinforces the way you see things as a photographer.

Later, you get home and look out eastwards from your balcony. It overlooks a large industrial unit, brutally ugly, but your view every day for the last six months. You love this view – despite the panoramic one to the south that takes in the full sweep of the city from Crags to Easter Road and beyond to the snow-slicked Pentlands. It fits. You take another photograph of the warehouse roof, sip at your espresso and head back inside.