22 Jan 2010

biopic 02 chapter 3

 Barrie was still reeling from the news. Putting the bomb back in it's shell will test his mettle to breaking point. He has formulated a plan, of sorts, beginning with the exorcising of his chemical demons. Reprieve from his sentence would take more than Dutch courage.

 In the sanctity of the studio he could reflect and offload. Barrie's history is scored into his face and scarred into his psyche. He can't disguise or escape from his past. Peeling back the layers was like heaving tarpaulin - beneath each baneful story lay a darker episode.

  It comes as no surprise to discover that Barrie is from a secure and loving home - originally from Hamilton where he can no longer show his face without the authorities being alerted. As a kid with a penchant for Cosworths and XR's, Barrie took great joy in testing cars to their limits; without the owners permission. Now he reminisces at the steering wheel of his XBox whilst coming to terms with his new mode of transport - the wagon.

21 Jan 2010

biopic 02 chapter 2

 We arranged to meet at 1pm; enough time for Barrie to get into town after a routine health check. This was to be our first venture together in the studio and already it seemed like our inaugural session was on the rocks. His call to reassure me he'd "be there" was barely coherent over the panic. 
 I met him on the steps of the studio, twisting in disbelief. A borderline condition had breached the safety barrier and he was awash with fear. Barrie was drowning. He couldn't confide in his pals and the prospect of breaking the news to his partner - his life-line, terrified him. Barrie scrubbed at his face in a desperate search for answers. An innocent man wrongly condemned; he couldn't put the sentence into words. 
 After spinning all the positives out of the air the stranglehold of uncertainty loosened enough for Barrie to breathe. It was getting late, we hadn't started shooting and with an hour left left on the clock I suggested we called it a day. Barrie was devastated by the idea, he needed to take control and refused to be put on hold. He asserted, insisted and before he could plead I plugged in the flash. 
 I couldn't deny him his moment.

Chapter #1 of the new Biopic put to bed - restless nights...

19 Jan 2010

Studio for Hire

Barrie had committed himself to the project; body and soul. I'd set him up and wasn't going to let him down. With purpose in my stroll I set-off in search of a studio to hire.


Daniel and his brother Mircea were fishing from opposite banks of Sauchiehall Street. Baited with copies of The Big Issue they reeled in the public. Mircea wouldn't let me go till he got his hug - his grip was so tight I thought he'd squeeze a diamond. 


I'd struck gold on my first outing - maybe rubbing a Roma had brought me luck? Skyline Studios, only five minutes walk from Barrie's pitch, is a neatly worked out space - ideal for portraiture. Skyline is photographer John G.Moore's baby. John is busy promoting 'Spirit,' a book of contemplative photographic studies of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, with proceeds from the book going to charity. John knew of Barrie, liked the project and offered the space free of charge - he's a generous spirit, so he is. 

John (G.Moore)

15 Jan 2010

biopic 02 chapter 1

Barrie Greenan- biopic #2
For the past 3 months I've been seeing Barrie around. We met on my first incursion on the world of Glasgow's Big Issue vendors. He instructed me to place my hand at arms length and, like an inmate on lock-down, withdrew to the confines of his comfort zone. 
 Barrie is one of the founding vendors and has been selling the magazine from the outset. His reckless sincerity and infusive resolve inspired the public to nominate him for Vendor of the Year. On the night of the awards I reveled in Barrie's abandoned display of pride and joy. In that instant I knew I was looking at the subject of my next Biopic.

It has been seven years since the publication of Biopic. Iggy Pop set a precedence and established the template for a series of photo essays. Without the support of a publisher my intention to produce a sequel had been put on hold - till now. In a rare moment of clarity it dawned on me that I could circumnavigate this obstacle and publish the series over the internet. More importantly, I'd found someone who had inspired me to restart the process.

With apprehension I handed Barrie a copy of Biopic and asked him to carefully consider my proposition. Was he prepared to submit himself to potentially painful public scrutiny? Why? He needed no time to deliberate; I hadn't accounted for the impact my request would have on his self-esteem. Recognition was reward enough, he wasn't just being photographed - he was being acknowledged.

I told him to sleep on it.

8 Jan 2010


Javier De Frutos © Gavin Evans
 At the peak of the suicide season the dance world martyred it's integrity. In October '09 The Sadler's Wells commissioned 4 acclaimed choreographers to give 'their own original response to the famous challenge that Diaghilev once issued to Jean Cocteau: “Surprise me!”' Javier De Frutos (above) rose magnificently to the challenge and boy did he deliver. True to 'The Spirit of Diaghilev', Javier's homage to Cocteau; 'Eternal Damnation to Sancho and Sanchez' divided the dance world. Critics and audiences were vocal in their unbridled praise and indignant outrage. The moral right obsessed on a scene where a fictional Pope (Roberto 1st) rapes a choir boy- a scene derived from Cocteau's musings. Javier's choreography is renowned for his provocative sensuality, dark humour and visceral beauty- every movement has reference and purpose. With a raft of predatory Bishops resigning from the church the timing seemed perfectly tuned! Javier was given no option other than resign his post of 'associate artist' at Sadler's. Had the dance theatre submitted to the patrons' demands and sided with the ballet hooligans?
 The extraordinary rendition of his reputation continued when his, now scandalized ballet was cut from the BBC schedule. The arbiters of public taste and morality had decreed the piece too shocking to broadcast pre-watershed and the dance theatre offered no defense. We were spared the spectacle when, on the 18th of December, the BBC broadcast the show in its censored entirety.
 On the 23rd December Javier was summoned to a meeting at the BBC. It was presumed that the Corporation would be equitable and discuss broadcasting 'Eternal Damnation to Sancho and Sanchez'. Instead, Javier was informed that the BBC would have never have purchased the piece had they known that the set consisted of illustrations of erect penises. Javier respectfully pointed out that these weren't the imaginings of a depraved choreographer; they were reproductions of drawings by Da Vinci and Jean Cocteau!
 Every artist expects the full support of his commissioners, management and contemporaries. Instead of insisting that the show was broadcast in it's entirety, the dance theatre sanctioned the BBC's decision to censor Javier. The press never sought an explanation from Javier or gave him the opportunity to put forward his defense. The perpetrators and supporters of this action should be outed for their collusion in the slandering of Javier's reputation. As for those choreographers who silently watched on as their colleague was publicly berated- they too should be noted for their complicity.
 The public vilification of Javier is a warning to all artists. To stop the pernicious erosion of our rights we must stand shoulder-to-shoulder and be counted. Demand to view the infamous performance- it would be reprehensible if Sadler's were to profit from releasing it on DVD. What about the Freedom of Information act- Javier owns the copyright?

footnote- The BBC broadcast the opinions of BNP leader Nick Griffin without our consent or approval- that's shocking.












1 Jan 2010

Home Truths

  The decision to return to Scotland was taken in the fall of '99 as an epidemic of idolatry was twisting the face of portraiture out of recognition. A coterie of cuckoos had migrated behind the lens; actors, designers, super models, rock stars, and their fledgelings all flocked to get in on the act. The cult of celebrity spawned unchecked ego's that pimped photography and mocked erudition. The contempt and conceit of the Noughties was depicted through their ersatz eyes, portraiture was bankrupt. Probity and subjectivity were carrion for the magpies. My propensity to puncture inflated egos and prize the persona out of the celebrity sealed my fate. I had no choice but to fly the coup, my last editorial commission was in 2005 - below. 

 Ten years on the view from the 5th column is spectacular and the scene is impregnable. This outpost is mired in contradiction - I'm at home and in exile. The captains of Scotland's cultural industry are a tenacious cabala - a decade later and still no phone call, commission, invite...nada. My aspirations to lecture were dashed by the principals of photography, I couldn't impart my experience without an arbitrary degree. Promises of guest lectureships never materialised. 

 Erratic provisions continue to come from south of the border. Collaborations with extraordinary talent pushes boundaries and fuels the journey. Doubt is momentarily gagged by recognition from renowned artists who entrust me with their vision. It's time to take hold of the wheel and charter a new course. A powerful sense of humour will be our protection and Santo Pepto-Bismol will comfort us on our journey. Let the Fujiama Mamas* set the sail as 'Come Hell or High Water'* blares over the Tannoy. Vamos a hoy!

Barry Adamson

2009 was the year of 'Homecoming Scotland' - the promotion of Scottish culture abroad, cynically timed to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. For the past three months I've been privy to the plight of some of Scotland's homeless. For the vendors of The Big Issue

All they can do now is hold tight and wait to see if the government honours it's commitment to provide all of Scotland's homeless with shelter come 2012.
'Homecoming' was a painful anathema- a reminder of severed bonds and embargoed kinship. They were unanimous in their contempt for the baneful title and the merits of the celebrations. Homelessness was off the agenda and they were barred from the party. Ex-pats were courted with Golf 'n' Malt served-up with an extravagant display of fiscal pyromania. 2009 wasn't a time for home truths.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie's a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.















24 Dec 2009


Wisdom from The Bard:
'Address to the Toothache'

My curse upon your venom'd stang.
That shoots my tortur'd gums alang,
An thro my lug gies monie a twang,
Wi gnawing vengeance,
Tearing my nerves wi bitter pang,
Like racking engines!

A' down my beard the slavers trickle,

I throw the wee stools o'er the mickle.
While round the fire the giglets keckle,
To see me loup.
An raving mad, I wish a heckle
Were i' their doup!

When fevers burn, or ague freezes, 

Rheumatics gnaw, or colic squeezes,
Our neebors sympathise to ease us,
Wi pitying moan;
But thee! - thou hell o a' diseases -
They mock our groan!


Of a' the numerous human dools -
Ill-hairsts, daft bargains, cutty-stools,
Or worthy frien's laid i' the mools, 

Sad sight to see!
The tricks o knaves, or fash o fools -
Thou bear'st the gree!


Whare'er that place be priests ca' Hell,
Whare a' the tones o misery yell,An ranked plagues their numbers tell,In dreadfu raw,
Thou, Toothache, surely bear'st the bell,
Amang them a'!

O thou grim, mischief-making chiel,
That gars the notes o discord squeel,
Till human kind aft dance a reel
In gore, a shoe-thick,Gie a' the faes o Scotland's weal
A towmond's toothache! 

My teeth grieve for these tombstones. Beauty, youth and esteem are cannibalised by the toothless gurn. These cankered pusses can only savour the memory of a steak or apple. Balanced meals are off the menu for those who can't chew. Life sucks.

Q: What's got fifty legs and two teeth? A: The queue for a 'script.'

The punchline (25 people queuing for a methadone pre'script'ion) hits below the belt- it's the sugar that makes the acidic medicine and the gumline go down. 
 Dereliction of dental care is the catalyst for a spectrum of remediable and chronic illnesses. The symptoms of neglect are rooted in poverty, diet and phobia - in parts of Glasgow men are condemned to a life expectancy of just 54 years. Teeth are a crude litmus test; when the paper turns red society is at risk.
 So many of The Big Issue vendors I meet endure the torment of wracked mouths, gum gouging and bodged extractions. Vendors in Glasgow universally complain that access to free care is fraught with pit-falls - there's always a loop-hole ready to ensnare them.


  The counter-point to this rueful passage came when a vendor told me of a clinic providing free dental care buried somewhere in the catacombs of Edinburgh's Cowgate. Working from a surgery at the back of a converted chapel were a pair of Santos Dentistas. Dental surgeons Adam and Ania man the post at the Edinburgh Access Practice two days a week and provide free dental care to anyone unfortunate enough to qualify for their services. Both apportion their days between victims of the poverty trap and patients with blood-born viruses. Ania also works one day at a psychiatric hospital carrying the torch for Mary Seacole. Against implausible odds they are heroically plugging a septic health service. "If you're on benefits then you're entitled to free dental care" they conceded. And there was the rub; to qualify for benefits you need an address - a home!

 Neither break the rules, they'll treat anyone who needs their care out of hours.


You'll find Santa on Christmas Day working at the emergency dental clinic- ask for Ania.

Kamikaze has had another visitation from the "tattoo spirit". A sacred patch of virginal terrain on his ink-etched torso had been consecrated by another of my images. His chromium skirl, framed by the motto 'C'est la Fuckin' Vie', roars out from the encroaching crevice like a chrome Leo the MGM lion.

11 Dec 2009

Bristol Old Vic

The Bristol Old Vic have commissioned me to create images for a play scheduled for next March. 'Juliet and her Romeo' is Tom Morris's first production as new director of Britain's longest running theatre. Tom's adaptation of "Shakespeare's text with some cuts," is performed by octogenarians and set in a care-home. The images should be unapologetic, beautiful and celebrate love's ability to transcend age - not buried in digital-botox.

Sîan Phillips CBE

Tom has cast iconic Welsh actress Sian Phillips CBE as his Juliet. Sian's distinctive features and extraordinary presence command the frame. Her lover is to be played by the wickedly charming Michael Byrne - a surprising role model who made me want to sprint to seventy. Sian and Michael regaled me with stories of them with legends such as Olivier, Jacobi, Richardson and Guinness. With 141 years of experience between them they are hyperlinks to stage and cinema history. One anomaly struck me as out-of-sync; neither had seen Romeo and Juliet performed on stage!

Michael Byrne

  This was pre-pre-production and to make the exercise more of a challenge this would be the first time the principal actors had met. I had two and a half hours to shoot in a production office donated by Jerwood Studios. The intimate 4x3 metre space, complete with desks and chairs would have to make do. Fortunately there were no assistants, wardrobe or props. I maneuvered between a web of cables and stands, careful not to spark a domino-effect. The session opened with Sîan. She was well accustomed to the lens. Once I'd found a niche in her repertoire of reflexive poses I moved swiftly on. Michael was photo-putty; playful, provocative and consummately versatile.
 Today would have been my fathers birthday - he'd have enjoyed the company.

(selection of outtakes)

 In the days of photo-chemistry I operated within the confines of the characteristics of manufacturer's film and papers. Once the shutter was pressed the process came to an end, save a few arbitrary adjustments made by the printer. The photographic community's appetite for manipulation was whet with the advent of (Ilford) Multi-Grade. They embraced it's ability to allow the manipulation of not only exposure but also contrast. The photographer (or printer) could be further imbued in the image by the shake of a mask or wave of a dodging wand.

A liquid crystal now radiates where a halide crystal once burned and the physical imprint continues through the photographer's stylus. The connection is strengthened and expanded exponentially through the myriad tones, colours and hues at the disposal of today's photographer. The digital palette marks the departure from the one-click traditionalist.

After more than a decade in my Adobe cell I have developed a synergy integral to the creating of my images. Intervention by the most skillful pixel surgeon only derails expression and severs the creative link.

No one else can do this for me - I won't to apportion credit for my vision.

27 Nov 2009

Kirk (Teasdale),Gateshead '07

This is the jaundiced specter of an angel of the north. Kirk forewarned me "look out for Bart(Simpson) in his mam's slippers." He'd travelled by public transport in his mother's baffies - his ankles were too swollen to fit his shoes. It was a bleak winter's day in Gateshead- verging on the Baltic. Nothing was going to stand between Kirk and a good blether, not even a recent liver transplant.
 I first met Kirk 18 years ago when he was the ebullient Geordie art-director of Time Out magazine. He had a reputation for bold commissioning and could bend ears like a clown with a box of balloons. Kirk summoned me into his office after being tickled by a photograph in which I'd coerced John Galliano to strip down to his loafers. Despite our local derby differences Kirk always fought my corner. He loved to book a ring-side seat at my shoots and embroider "the tale."
Kirk now, '09 Baltic Flour Mills, Gateshead

 Kirk has won his battle but keeps warring on; shirked the demons and the yella-fella but he'll never lower his guard. He's unburdening some of his emotional debt by creating a coordinated interface between transplant services, donors and recipients.
 In his time as an art-director Kirk discovered and nurtured many photographers who went on to lead successful careers. One pretender to benefit from his stewardship was fashion photographer John 'Rankin' Wardell who he spotted at a St.Martin's degree show. Kirk couldn't hold back telling me that Rankin had consented to shoot him for his recent 'Rankin Live' project and was rewarded with a commemorative 'Ranked' badge! The funny thing was, we couldn't see the irony - there was none to be found.
 I gave Kirk my hand and he resisted the temptation to be himself, choosing instead to parody a patient he'd observed in rehab. As I said, he can't help telling the tale - long may he keep spinning.

24 Nov 2009

Big Issue- Vendor Awards

Peter (Corstophine)

Scott (Lowrie)

Local dignitaries, politicos and the homeless rubbed shoulders at the Merchant's House, Glasga. The occasion was to mark the first vendors awards - Real Lives, Real Achievements.Joan, John, Scott and Barry were rightly celebrated for their role as ambassadors for the homeless and the Big Issue.

Barrie (Greenan)

Everyone was well turned out; in their best and on their best- well almost. Barrie couldn't resist shouting back answers to the speaker's rhetorical questions - something they hadn't scripted for. Each vendor gave a short acceptance speech recognising the pivotal role the Big Issue played in turning their lives around. It was one of those rare occasion; a ceremony that counted for something, reality without the tv.

The celebratory mood was briefly tempered when John broke news from the podium of his and Lisa's imminent relocation south of the border. As a keepsake of the moment Lisa asked for a 'photie o' evrywan." Martin piped-up "put yer hons oot."

Stephen Robertson, CEO The Big Issue

The big guns were in attendance. CEO Stephen Robertson applauded the achievements of the vendors and spoke of the urgent need for the expansion of the services to be provided by a Big Issue Scottish Foundation.

Big Issue founder John Bird CBE (above) gave an impassioned speech recalling the inception of the Big Issue in Scotland in '69. The organisation had come a long way and was more vital than ever. He distinguished the aims of The Big Issue from that of 'charities' with a salient turn of phrase - "the Big Issue is a hand-up, not a hand-out." 
 With genuine concern John suggested I upgrade my camera (a compact) for something more professional and wondered if I knew that "the Big Issue discovered Rankin?" I presumed he didn't mean on the streets. He probably thought, sincerely, that I could benefit from his years of experience in the publishing industry.  Or, had I been ranked?