13 Nov 2009

Saltmarket from Street Level

The Pyramids are wrapped in sub-zero silk. It's minus 2 in the Saltmarket and the chill factor is set to raw.

  Janice has been off the streets for the past fortnight; unable to cope with the news. Both her parents had been diagnosed with cancer. Her mother is to undergo chemotherapy after surgeons removed a lump from her breast. By the time they discovered her father's pancreatic cancer there was little hope of remission. 

 Janice's is torn by her mother's torment. She is terrified of her daughter being abandoned - again. Janice is adopted.

The Big Issue
gives Janice a sense of purpose and the generosity of her regulars lightens her burden.


  At the Saltmarket HQ I volunteered to guide a family of Roma to their pitches and set off with my vertically overawed travellers in tow. In a door entrance sheltered from the preying wind we prepared to take the first shot. My arm was out and Florita (mother) was in position when we got the order to move on. Our interference with the automatic door was causing a draft. The belligerent security guard wouldn't see reason. We weren't causing an obstruction, I explained that I was a photographer and only needed a matter of seconds. She was emphatic "Do you no' understand? You're letting in the cold." Pointing at my shivering companions I applauded her grasp of meteorology and sense of common courtesy. As the glass doors were closing I ended the cross-examination "just to clarify; it is just the cold that's the problem?" She tightened her fingers inside her wool gloves, shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly and returned to her post. 


Florita and the others shrugged their shoulders in unison. The language-barrier had been crossed without the need for translation. They were accustomed to this open display of hostile hospitality.


On my return to base I retraced my steps, eager to find out what kind of establishment would refuse such a meager request. Could it have been the foyer of some legal or financial institution? I had to lock my knees from buckling under the weight of the irony. Not only was it a public space, it was an arts complex with a 'street-level' photographic gallery!

At The Big Issue there a policy of non-discrimination, everyone and everything gets through the door - especially the cold.