Showing posts with label The Big Issue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Big Issue. Show all posts

27 Jan 2011


William, The Maxwells front man.

William was mid band-practice at the Maxwell-Collins household. He broke the flow to welcome me and announce that in a fortnight he'd be supporting his father at the Shepherds Bush Empire. His band, The Maxwells (named in honour of his mother's side of the family), will be performing their first gig in front of a crowd of over 1000 but he ain't fazed.


It has been a long while since I've felt the warmth of this fiercely matriarchal household. The volume still reaches fever pitch and there's no room for the sentimental or superficial. Under Grace's stewardship the Maxwell-Collins juggernaut careers ever onward and upward with more laughter and less falling. If ever there was a motivation guru in the making then Grace is it.


Edwyn had been busy producing bands in his studio and working on his upcoming exhibition 'Nature Punk' showing at the Idea Generation Gallery. It's great to see Ed being creative on all fronts, giving as good as he gets and receiving the critical praise deserves.

This intimate image is one of triumph over adversity. Being with Grace and Edwyn puts things into perspective- money isn't the be all.

19 Jan 2011


Barrie showed me to where he used to 'skipper'- sleep rough. For a couple of years he slept on the beam of this bridge over the river Clyde. As if to prove the point there is a duvet hanging there like a ghostly reminder.

8 Aug 2010

iPhone app

The iPhone app is working and is the model for the Big Issue 'biopic' app. With the support and coverage of the magazine it is hoped that the app will attract sponsorship which will in turn go towards funding a Big Issue Foundation in Scotland.

You can download the app by entering into Safari and then adding the app to your 'home screen'.

1 Aug 2010

A Fare Cop

Sunday Herald Magazine

 I was between interviews for the post of Photographer in Residence with the National Theatre of Scotland- grilled by photographer David Eustace before being roasted by Roberta Doyle, Head of External Affairs. In the interlude I'd arranged to meet Barrie who was accompanied by vendors Scott and Rab. We were on our way from the Big Issue office in the Saltmarket to their pitches when police appeared from out of the blue and pulled us aside. The boys were drinking on the street- an offence in these parts of Glesga. Barrie shrugged off the incident- he'd amassed a pyre of fines. The belt around the policemen's waists drew my attention. The usual tools dangled; telescopic truncheons, cuffs and mace- nothing out of the ordinary. It was the taser and pistol that jolted my senses. Armed police handing out tickets to alcoholics- a sobering thought.

It's a fare cop!

9 Jul 2010

biopic 02 chapter 11

Barrie appears better. The swelling from the beating has subsided but the whites of his eyes tell their own story.

20 Nov 2009

Saltmarket Sting

The wind was coursing the Saltmarket like an ice-hockey stick in search of a puck. It had found David who'd torn-up the script "tha's it, nae mare drugs." David was homeless - again. He's used to being on his own, he'd lost his ma and tried to take his life but the branch broke- a hard lesson to swallow. His flat was torched, everything was lost: his music system, dvd's, even the freeview. Stood in all his worldly goods: trackie gear and unblemished trainers, he dug out 75p, all he had to his name - enough for one copy.


David pitched-up at Argos car park as the rain pecked through the polyester. It's tough to start over- again, he begins his day the Baron Sugar way: buys one copy, sells one copy, buys two copies... 

 Jimmy got unstuck at 12 with his first bag of glue. Drug and alcohol fueled abuse followed. Now he's re-born and recovering, seeing the world anew through fervoured eyes.
  "Can you bless me?" he asked sheepishly, "Put yer hon' on ma heed?" He paused and plucked-up courage "Can I return the blessin'? Can I put ma hon' on the camera?"

"Tell them 'am 'Healin Hons' Jimmy."

Jimmy's eyes are a slew-gate, metering the cycle of touching "hons." His life is on probation, sentenced to another night curfewed from society. He dreads going back to the hostel and fears the delinquent nights. It's been his shelter for fourteen years but he'd never call it home. He needs his faith and, he confesses, The Big Issue.

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. 

9 Nov 2009

Saltmarket Syndrome

Sodden sheep pin-down the Pyramids as the tarmac conveyor grinds to a crawl. 


The Saltmarket is exerting it's grip, I've become it's willing hostage; Saltmarket Syndrome? "Billy fae Fife" carries the wind on his back like a sack of coal. He tilted his head skyward and looked me up-and-down like a war-torn terrier. His eye gleamed like an sapphire on a butcher's apron. Billy took my hand as though he was going to lead me on a dance.


Frankie - Big Issue vendor support worker.

It turns out there's a soccer star at The Big Issue depot. You'd never know, Frankie's too modest to let on. It was his 5 goals against Poland that secured Scotland's 2007 World Cup victory in Copenhagen. The final score: Poland 3, Scotland 9.

Frankie was Glasgow born, Gorbals raised and delinquency bound until he signed-up with the Scotland Homeless football squad and the team at the Big Issue.


  A distress-flare bobbed above the counter bleating "been bullied, been bullied". Taunts and threats are a regular occurrence for Neil. His unquestioning trust can leave him vulnerable and exposed. He can't comprehend the retarded comments and jibes, he says "everyone gees me kisses an' cuddles." 

 Despite the danger and his fears, he keeps returning to his pitch. Neil loves his regulars, Neil loves everyone - unrequited. He takes the punches but could never deal them.
  Neil needs care in the community. Meanwhile the Big Issue Scotland Foundation will continue to provide Neil with the support that society ruefully neglects to provide him with. 


  Stephen started vending a couple of weeks ago, it gives him "a sense of direction," but he's still nervous. "It's the youths you've gotta watch oot fer" he warned, pointing to a slit in his shewn crop. Stephen had intervened when a group of students were set upon by the Sooside (pronounced 'suicide') Cumbie. One of the Cumbies (Gorbals) gang drew out a "steakie" and stabbed him "in the heed." He recalled his amazement when the surgeons used super-glue instead of stitching him up.  

"Be careful" he advised, "that no-one thinks yer a pro-active". I showed him my id.

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

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.

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.