31 Oct 2009

Grand Ole Opry

This gallery of in-and-outlaws was shot in '87.

I'd rustled together 20 rounds of 664 (Polaroid) and a beaten-up Mamiya Universal. At the time I thought nothing of the shots and laid them to rest. Like a case of Jack they've matured. These photographs weren't taken in a bar in Tennessee or an outpost of the Wild Frontier. They were captured in the Grand Ole Opry - the wild West -

West of Scotland!

  At the time the talk going around in the salons of Edinburgh was of gunslinging Weegies high on Heavy, ready to lynch the first Sassenach who dared put a foot over the boundary line. It sounded too good to be true. "Govan Gavin?!" was the baffled response to my invitation, apparently to a suicide ball. No one would come for the ride so I went on my lonesome.

I was welcomed with open-arms and over the winter of '87 I kept returning for a reality check-up.
Laredo gunslinger

  A stratified cloud of gun-powder and cigarette smoke hung over-head. Gunslingers danced as they slapped the burning embers on their thighs (in the race to beat their opponent they would often prematurely shoot-off before withdrawing from the holster). These urban cowboys were dedicated to detail - the get-up was got right. Who was going to argue with how they chose to escape? They had conviction, and six-shooters.

The Wanted posters had questions that needed answers. Where were the old-timers? What became of 'Jo Horner', 'Country Joe', 'Curly Bill', 'Bounty Hunter' and 'Cimarron'? Would I find ghosts where once stood a funeral parlour or would the image of bonhomie still play on in the former Picture House?

Kid Kamikaze and Cowboy Alec.

I deputised Kid Kamikaze who rode shotgun. The Kid was gonna cover me, armed with his pink compact and sharp eye. The fist-full of Polaroids was my passport to a magnanimous home coming.

Times have inevitably changed; there are too few cowboys and too many plucking hen parties. There's still a live band, bingo, line-dancing and gun-slinging (all for a fiver). Gone is the nicotine soused velvet curtain that hung like human fly-paper. The vista has been transformed by a prairie-panorama courtesy of STV's lawman - Taggart. Pretzels and cans of Red 'Sitting' Bull are a sobering change from the days of heavy and hard liquor. The memory of the old days still lingers in the air - the gunslinger's sulphur and salt peter making a last stand against the tobacco ban on the senses.

Outlaw (left) and Big Hoss (deceased).

Everyone gasped as I turned the shots. 'Deceased' was the word most used to describe the subjects.

John 'Kid Curry' McGhee (deceased).

John 'Cheyenne' Johnson (deceased) had attained legendary status before taking his life and with him the glory days.

Gambler (above) was run out of town after running-up bad debts.

John 'BJ' Duff (left) and John 'Doc Holliday' McCafferty (deceased). Blind DJ BJ has moved over, the new kid-on-the-decks is mos deaf DJ Rowdy Yates below.

DJ Rowdy Yates

Ian and Michelle (above) were on a roll. Michelle hit the bingo jackpot- a hundred pounds. Her and fiancé Ian (left) couldn't contain their joy- or their love for one another. Now they didn't have to worry about the taxi bill home - priceless moments.

The last of the die-hards was Archie 'Joe Horner' Buxton (above). It was unanimously agreed that Archie confounded convention, proving that looks could improve with age and tooth-loss! 

There are no pretensions here, just an honest celebration of culture and kinship. The spirit the of the Grand Ole Opry lives on...

 Thanks to all the kind folk of Glasgow's Grand Ole Opry, especially: JK, Big Bad John, Joe Horner, Cowboy Alec, Line Dancer, Bounty Hunter, Characo, Rowdy Yates, Peggy Sue, Nick Wray, Durango, Davey, Tony, Fiona, Night Rider, Donnegal Kid, Big D, Jake, Michelle and Ian, Duane, Bella and Cathie.

20 Oct 2009

touch- a definition

touch: definition by Peter Ross- Anthropologist and Animateur;

 In his photo series touch, Evans explores the boundaries between subjects. He instructs them to take his hand and place it in the frame of the photograph and by doing so explores the cultural and psychological limits of connectedness. Some take his hand and keep him at a distance while others are prepared to take him into their bodies, literally. The viewer is invited to reflect on the limits of physical contact between strangers, both in its cultural and gendered context, and to explore their own thresh-hold of acceptable touching.
  touch also challenges the conventions of photographic portraiture. Evans is both subject and photographer as he invades the space of both the sitter and the image. His intervention blows apart the separation of the artist and subject, they can no longer be discrete, and the viewer must consider Evans' influence over the sitter. This work embodies Evans' belief that all his photographic portraits have himself as the central subject and that the images he produces of a sitting are a record of an event in which he is central.

 If you would like to contribute comments or texts on touch please email me at touch@gavinevans.com

15 Oct 2009

British Journal of Photography

 Interview by the esteemed British Journal of Photography on the making of the 'iconic image'.

13 Oct 2009

 This face is haunted by the aching spirit of Kevin. Society plucked him of everything, his one eye is constantly on the look-out. He was wheel-chair bound for purgatory before he found salvation in the church and the support of The Big Issue. I crouched next to him and fixed on his nomadic eye. He tells me he has a kid! Grasping my hand, he drew me to his toothless cavity and gasped "Naebody shud suffer fae poverty...'specially children." No matter how many copies of The Big Issues he sells, he always keeps enough aside to sponsor his child. This is the closest it gets to family for Kevin - a progress report from the other side of the world. Kevin's hope is that he can help free someone else, if not himself, from the snare of poverty. 
 I was speechless, my head ached from the sudden impact. How do you balance the altruism of Kevin against the hell-bent motives of celebrity child-snatchers?

This touch photograph is striking- compare it to the 'portrait' above. Kevin momentarily surfaced for the image.

 A wee laddie popped up and asked what I was "up tae?" His name was Robert, one of Jock Tamson's Bairns - a curious kid who could steal hearts as easily as cars. In a call-booth, holding his phone, he took my hand and put it to his ear -

Is anyone listening?

12 Oct 2009

Glesga Gudfellas

 Time's running out on the meter and Joan's lament is running through my head. Inside the car; engaging the key, my concentration was shattered by the rapping of a sovereign on the windshield. Peering back at me, like a scene from Jurassic Park, was a face unaccustomed to refusal. "Let me try oot yer car," came the order. I got out to clarify what I thought he said. Like a silk snake-belt he slipped around me and into the car. "Just as well I hung on to these" I said, dangling the keys at him. "Thaat's shite son, s'no fer me". As he got out and turned to walk away I called him back - he owed me. He fixed me through his reactor-lies and growled "Wha?". "Your turn to repay the favour - I get to shoot you." He gladly conceded, adding "In the past I'd a had them oot yoor mouth if I'd a caught you round here" (I have two discreet gold caps).

This was Ian - Glesga Gudfella and former safe-cracker. The cut of his jib was razor-sharp. The Paisley cravat, he explained, was his colors. Ian is the Glesga forefather of the Crip - a Clydeside Crip. Back in the car my focus was broken again, this time Ian and three of his associates were deriding my motor. Once again I took the key out of the ignition. "Introduce me then!"
Ian read out the role-call like a well versed brief:

First in line grins Billy. These days he's putting a different smile on the faces of Glasgow.


Jimmy's enthusiasm for misdemeanor is replaced by a wise, calmer demeanor.


 'One Hit' Willie stepped up to the mark. "What was the song?" I teased. "A swan song, one hit an' you'll no be coming back" Ian clarified.

  The Gudfellas were on the street, smoking and regaling the glory days of honest crime. In their sobriety they had found self-respect, something they couldn't extract by fear or extortion.

Saltmarket Suffragists

 Dawn had clipped the last blade of grass on the Pyramids as I pulled into a hung-over Glesga. The shutters were coming down from the watering holes as the Saltmarket started to percolate with briefs and thieves. I'm outside The Big Issue's Glasgow distribution point. From the pavement to the counter vendors queue patiently to collect their badges, get their pitch and stock up on the latest edition.

 Over the Roma-Weegie babel I caught the perfectly pitched "Are ye the guy fae London?" I interpreted that to be me as I was motioned under the counter. I surfaced to meet Lisa, a sonsie las who's bite is no contest for her insanely profane bark. She re-directed me again - "John's ootside havin' a fag". I tunneled back under the battlements and on to the street where John Duffy (distribution manager) was savouring the last draw before casting aside his dowt.

John(Duffy) Distribution Manager, The Big Issue

He's been working since 5am, overseeing delivery of the new issue to centres across Scotland. John is eminently qualified for the post, the years he spent surviving the streets instills respect and trust in his vendors. To them he's much more than an aspiration.

Martin (Hackett), Sales Development Worker, The Big Issue

My guide for today's tour of Glesga's inner-city pitches is Martin fae the Southside. Martin's quietly spoken and tolerant of my scatological tendencies.
 The first of the vendors I'll come to meet is serenading the commuters at Central Station. Joan 'Queen of the Big Issue' greets and sends them on their way, lifted by her cry. There's "no problem. Of course," I can photograph and record her "nae problem at all".
 Taking hold of my arm I guided her inside and recorded her song. Joan's joyful rendition of the Disney classic conceals a painfully modest plea; "to be like yoo..." Her cry is a street lament.

(play to hear Joan's cry)

  After 'touch' she whispered "I wanted tae warm ma'sel on you". Joan is a breathtaking affirmation of the life-line that The Big Issue provides. We left the blind VIP, exposed and at the mercy of the jungle.
 A succession of street-level suffragists painted their story, determined not to be erased, no matter how much they were blanked.




The homeless have an acutely different awareness of 'personal space'. They are disfranchised from a society that takes the security of a home as a right. Their comfort zone is intuitively ring fenced by mistrust and disappointment. With 'touch' they can personify their boundaries without fear of misinterpretation. There's no coercion, their vulnerability is respected, not exploited. They decide whether to expose their identity or delete their image.

While writing this entry the music of Magazine broods in the background. Devoto sneers "So this is real life."

- you're telling me.

10 Oct 2009

Peter joined- in the spirit!

6 Oct 2009

Heart and Sole

I'd heard the rumours, I'd never believed them.

For over 20 years I've walked, staggered and driven past this place- my dry-cleaners is next door. I thought it had been evacuated in a panic; leaving behind a dust encapsulated flash-frame from the 50's. I had to do a double-take, but for sure there he was, fixated, gazing over the barricade of post-war posters. Rooted to the spot with a Gerry can of glue in one hand and brush in the other, stood the Myth of Merchiston - Jock the Cobbler.
 I made my move, entering his world before he evaporated. It was as if I'd fallen into a nail-bar trash can. Classical music squeezed out of tin speakers like Camembert through a cheese-grater. When my eyes had done flushing I stood over him like Chewbacca towering above Yoda. I introduced myself like someone who'd come from the future. Jock craned his head and looked at me as though I was the curiosity!
 He's "been here the whole time. Fifty year an' mare". He only ever ventures into in the shop-front to deal with the customers. The magic happens in the back; where he guards his secret of longevity. Further investigation revealed that Jock turns 90 in two days time. He stuck his glinting eye on me and demanded to know where I'd got my information. I wasn't going to grass-up my source - Jean from the cleaners next door is a woman not to cross.
 Jock tells me being 90 has it's drawbacks: when trying to buy travel insurance the broker hung up when he told her his D.O.B was 1919. "My kid's didnae gae me a party when I turned 80" he rued, "so I dinnae see 'em fussin' o'er 90." I tried to envisage his kids! "Still," I irk him "he's got a letter from the Queen to look forward to in his old age". He rose to the bait and took great delight in beheading my jibe.

  When I asked him to be photographed he held my wrist like he was taking my pulse. I think he was checking if I was for real.

5 Oct 2009

Big Issue

  The Big Issue magazine had seen the ActionAid poster, checked out my site and wanted to run an article. Instead of rolling out more of the 'infamous' portraits, The Big Issue took me up on my proposal to photograph the vendors. This was an opportunity to develop 'touch' and shirk the 'Celebrity Photographer' moniker from my back.

Big Issue vendor 'Lonewolf'
 In a recent edition I read of a self-made Celebrity photographer; a mock-star and his £2.75m creative home. For a moment I thought I'd wandered onto the pages of Vanity Fair, then I remembered my vendor, Lonewolf (pictured). People presume that, because I've incidentally shot some celebrities, I too am a closet narcissist with all the trappings. They confuse me with someone whose freedom to explore and scrutinise is impugned by fashion. I am as much a 'Celebrity Photographer' as Katie 'Jordan' Price is a 'Literary Genius'. My subjects are not measured by star quality, each is treated with the same deference and respect. My impediment is my stubborn inability to suffer fools- or conform. 
 The Celebrity Photographer made the distinction clear, defining his process as neither; thoughtful, considerate or intelligent. Sandy Hotchkiss puts it nicely; those who provide narcissistic supply to the narcissist will be treated as if they are part of the narcissist and be expected to live up to those expectations. In the mind of a narcissist there is no boundary between self and other. If I must be labeled, how about (for now) 'Independent'? It compensates for my dilettante tendencies! 
 The Big Issue have flagged the upcoming shoot with the caption: 'Poster Boy...Celebrity Photographer!' I can tell it's gonna be a long climb.

3 Oct 2009

Multiple Exposure

Multiple exposure- click on the images to view full-size.

1 Oct 2009

 It was another dreich afternoon in Auld Reekie and I was drookit. Through the nebulous har I could make out the glow of a twisting barber's pole. Before I knew it I was peering through the salon window. Behind the precipitation and condensation I could make out a cluster of Oriental fashionistas.
 So, this is how my hair-brain logic went: I've got straight hair - so do they. Cool cuts are top of their hip list of priorities ergo they must know this is a good hairdresser. I was in need of a hair-whisperer with flair and this could be my man. I stuck my head in the door and and was greeted by deafening silence. I asked if I could make an appointment. A teenager translated my request into Cantonese and the hairdresser nodded. "Aye come back in an 'oor", she confirmed. For the next 60 minutes I kept wondering if there'd be anyone to translate. How would we communicate? The shop was empty. Jet tumbleweed floated across the floor. "Hi" I said, "Hey" he replied– we were off the starting blocks

 He was called Liam, a solid Celtic name. And that was it - we were now looking at each other through the language barrier.

On a table was a stack of hair menus. A trichological feast of mullet served with assorted mega-waffles, crimps and crinkles. The unwitting victims tried to hide their embarrassment under their hair-raising creations. Their clenched grins couldn't disguise the fact that they knew what we were thinking. Although tickled, I was not tempted by any of the specials.

  Liam guided me by eye. Locked on like a Sidewinder I tracked his trajectory to a red chopping block with porcelain basin. "Was" I followed his instructions to the missing letter. I submitted my neck to the basin where he proceeded to was(h) my hair. Sitting on his chair he lowered me to ground level. Gestures to the ready and noises in reserve, we set off. Liam is a Zen Master of the scissors. He beat my crown and calf licks into submission. Another was', a final cut and blow-dry and voila! The logic worked, the haircut experiment was a resounding success. 40 minutes out of the ordinary on a miserable day, all for just twelve quid.
 That was four years ago and Liam had just arrived in the UK. He was lured from his wife and son to work 60 hours a week in a Scottish side-street clip joint. In Hehehot, Liam led a team of 12 stylists in a fashionable salon. An ocean of hair has been swept under the linoleum of time and since that first encounter we have remained friends.

And the charge? Still 12 pounds.

What price a haircut?

Bunny Munro app

Something I've come across- a funky app with my photographs. Nick Cave's Bunny Munro is now available to download.