Documenting Britain

The M8

The M8 is Scotland’s busiest motorway and one of the busiest in the UK, running between the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Thousands of people commute between the cities every day. Since the motorway’s completion in 1980 many of these towns have been in decline, with the disappearance of local industries like coal mining and traffic almost completely bypassing the towns via the main motorway. I used to travel between the two cities without leaving the motorway, the towns in-between appearing to be little more than indistinct shapes: glimpsed for the briefest of seconds. Houses and people caught in the corner of the eye. Junctions isolated; roads curving off into nothing. Flyovers, exits, place names – amongst them I came across the words “The heart of Scotland” printed on a motorway services sign. I am documenting this place and the small, seemingly forgotten towns which surround it.

Heartlands #3

After a few weeks of driving around and making landscapes I soon felt the need for some human contact. I wanted to meet I was faced with the challenge of shooting portraits which would flow with landscapes and work in a narrative. How would I meet and select subjects and what would they hold in common?

I met my first subject by the side of road–I was on the way out of Harthill when I spotted a man in military fatigues riding a bicycle. His bike was adorned with British flags and had a large truck style radio attached to the handle bars. I turned the car around as soon as I could and parked in the layby next to this interesting individual. It turned out that Derek was an ex-royal marine and veteran of Afghanistan. We chatted for twenty minutes or so before I made a photograph of the man standing next to his bike. There was something interesting about Derek and I wanted to photograph him at his the home. Photographing the life of a veteran seemed like an interesting step to take int the project so I asked if I might visit his home in the coming weeks. A week later and I was at Dereks house. The walls were crammed with photographs and many of the rooms were full to the brim with personal processions. I chatted with Derek and his partner Mary while photographing details.

Finally I made a portrait of the couple sitting in front of a wall dotted with family photographs.

Thinking about making a return visit to spend some time following Derek, I began to pack up and on the way out I brought up Derek’s time in the Royal Marines with his partner Mary…

“But Derek has never been in the Royal Marines” she said as I stepped out the door, “He just wears it because he likes the clothes.”