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.


New projects are born out of a germ of interest, an idea and a yearning to make or create. So after years of travelling between Edinburgh and Glasgow I began to explore, areas just off the M8 motorway. Often driving aimlessly to begin with, I tried to get used to a new way of working—wandering down paths for the first time past motorway junctions, warehouses, old outposts which soon gave way to winding streets and extensive new build housing estates. Harthill, Shotts, Whitburn, Blackridge, Newhouses- similar towns which grew around mining and other industry, now commuter towns with most of the population working elsewhere.

The going was slow and challenging—all my previous projects had a much smaller geographical area of focus. They usually looked at a type of person who did something (asylum seekers, pigeon flyers for example) where as this project looked was a lot looser. I knew I wanted to become better at landscapes and to rely less on portraiture which explains the absnece of people from these post so far. There were also some vague themes which I wanted to shoot around but in retrospect the lack of control was good for me and taught me to work in a different way.

Slowly but surely patterns began to emerge—I started to realise what I was trying to do and what still needed to be done. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting work from this project and talking about how it evolved along the way.