4 Mar 2011

Count Me In...

Gary McNair
Gary (McNair) was locked in a blackened cell - a creative flotation tank where his maverick ideas percolated. So far he’d come up with a title ‘Count Me In’. The thread started with the conundrum- we vote in a system we didn’t vote for. What came after that was anyone’s guess. I admire the 26 year old’s hutzpa - he goes out on a limb.
A fortnight later and he was performing ‘Count Me In’ at the Traverse Theatre. Gary compelled a captivated audience to react and interact. The play was high octane and provocative. His uniquely humourous and succinct approach beautifully illustrated the inequities and absurdities of the voting system. Gary ran into the audience, thrust his microphone to the mouths of unsuspecting victims and got them to read from a cue card. The guy sat next to me got one- I was safe. 20 seconds later and Gary returned to me, giving me what felt like a 4 line soliloquy to read- with instructions! The audience picked up on this anomaly- bastardo!

  Later, in the Traverse bar, Gary confessed that he saw me and thought “there’s Gavin”. His natural reflex was to thrust the card into my hand. Gary is a talented director, playwright and explosive actor- the consummate theatremaker. Just one bit of advice for those of a shy or nervous disposition- stay clear of his line of sight.

20 Feb 2011

Fashionably Late

  In 1998 I was commissioned to photograph a group of upcoming British designers. I was assigned a stylist for the job by the name of Isabella Blow. The plumage jetting from her head suggested she was an endangered species with a flair for the extraordinary. We instantly warmed to one another, we made each other giggle. I hadn’t a clue who this creature was, Issy was a legend in the world of fashion - a place foreign to me. I was a neutral, I knew no one from her circles so she felt able to confess and confide in me. We’d meet in low-lit cafes off Piccadilly and she’d tell me of the snubbing she received from the photographers, models and designers she selflessly promoted and mentored. She once called me excitedly to say she’d named me in an an interview as the photographer to watch out for- typical Issy.
 Issy suffered from depression and the treatment she received from her contemporaries and muses compounded the misery. Our clandestine confessionals lasted until I left London for Scotland. I was shocked, but not surprised, to hear in 2007 that she had taken her own life. The method she chose to end it was tragic - weed-killer. Exiting her poisonous world in such a dramatic manner seems prophetic in retrospect.
 Four years after her death and the carrion are descending. Publications, documentaries and a film of her life are appearing from the coffin's woodwork. Photographers and designers who took advantage of her unrequited generosity are now reaping the post mortem benefits of her influence. 

Isabella was like the feathers in her hats- fragile and exotic. The latter-day obitchuaries will, I'm sure, tell their own tales.

9 Feb 2011

Smile for the Camera

Q: When is a smile not a smile?

Photograph©Gavin Evans
 There is one thing that would significantly improve the quality of Barrie’s life. Every time he looks in the mirror he is reminded of the moment his world was condemned to scrutiny. His perma-grin was the result of a random attack and society won't let him forget. At that moment his anonymity was annulled and he became guilty of crimes he never committed. Disfigurement at the hands of a stranger has scarred him inside and out. Whether the attack is random or gang related, the scarred are scarred. All bearers of Glasgow Smiles are victims- society is the victim too. Barrie wishes his scar could be removed to erase the psychological pain and stigma. 
 The ‘Glasgow Smile’ is the slashing from mouth to ear resulting in a crescent shaped scar. It’s a cultural thing, unique to Glasgow, you can’t help noticing them- they’re everywhere. In a world obsessed with cosmetic and aesthetic perfection this act of deliberate disfigurement and defilement flies in the face of cultural norms. The prevalence and persistence of this ‘culture’ perpetuates a state of underlying fear- reinforcing the hard-man stereotype. The consequences for the victim are; imposed vilification and demonisation resulting in simultaneous social imprisonment and exile. The ‘Glasgow Smile’ is synonymous with gang culture but is also an act randomly inflicted on innocent bystanders- like Barrie. This practice has existed for at least 60 years and is sustained by the turning of the cheek.

Dr.Christine Goodall
In an attempt to comprehend why this cultural anomaly persists I arranged to meet Dr.Christine Goodall- consultant oral surgeon and founder of Glasgow based charity Medics Against Violence. Christine is at the sharp end of this practice as she treats victims of knife crime from as young as 13 years old. She candidly tells me that these explosive attacks are expressions of the emotionally inarticulate Glaswegian man. Unsurprisingly alcohol is one factor that often facilitates these outbursts. The ‘Glasgow Effect’ coupled with psychological morbidity is a powerful contributing force- difficult to define yet impossible to deny.
  Dr.Goodall introduced me to a member of Strathclyde’s Violence Reduction Unit who assures me that I can be introduced to many victims and perpetrators if I want to turn this line of inquiry into a photographic project. With Medics Against Violence’s support I am seriously considering exposing this cultural malaise- if I can make a positive contribution to their goals.

A: When it’s a Glasgow Smile.

In Vein

Opposite Arteries is a gallery in a different vein- a shooting gallery hidden from view by hoardings. On a disused plot on Glesga's Bath Street oblivious pedestrians pass within a stone's throw of oblivion.

The place is awash with needles, sterile spoons and pipes. Faeces and tampons litter the ground- with anthrax thrown into the heroin mix, shooting-up these days is riskier than gambling Russian Roulette with five loaded chambers.
 Bath Street is no backwater, it's smack in the city centre.

Even the walls of the Institute of Virology appear contaminated.

2 Feb 2011

Girl X

There's a new round of upcoming productions at the National Theatre of Scotland. Today I'm sniffing around the Glue Factory where the cast and crew of Girl X are assembled. Director Pol Heyvaert is putting 12 members of the Citizens Theatre's choir, gently but assuredly through their paces. The choir are getting to grips with the daunting task of synchronous speaking- speaking as one and memorising 43 pages of script. The play, concept of lead actor and disabled rights activist Robert Softley, is based on the controversial issues surrounding the 'treatment' of Ashley X. Although this play is certain to challenge the audience it is in no way didactic
 The show is premiering at the Traverse Theatre on the 4th March and runs 'till the 13th March.

Pol Heyvaert

Robert Softley

It was a battle to get home; through gale force winds, past dead dumpsters and umbrella mortuaries.

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.

20 Jan 2011

Make Believe

The Office, Gordon Lane, Glesga

“I’ll have tae call you back, the police wanna word.”
It was a beautiful evening in July but on the west coast conditions were taking a turn for the worse. Barrie was being interrogated in The Office (Gordon Lane) by the boys in blue.

 An hour later he called me back. “You’ll never faaken believed it...” Curiously, every time he says "you’ll never believe it," I almost always do.
 Barrie had responded to cries for help coming from the lane. His fellow drinking compatriot Scott was being attacked by Cyclops, a monocular blade wielding thug. Cyclops threw away the knife at the sight of an oncoming Barrie before making good his escape past two bicycle mounted police responding to the incident.
 The police arrived on the scene to find Scott berating Barrie. Barrie thought the knife had landed on an air-conditioning unit so they made a spectacularly failed attempt to find the evidence. Scott couldn’t lift Barrie- he was recovering from a recent groin operation. The two inebriates were unable to stand tall, let alone scale the dizzying height of the unit- almost 4 metres from the ground. The police charged Barrie with lifting a pole off the air-con unit with the intention of using it as a weapon.
 Barrie was furious “Pole? Wha’ pole? There was nae pole.” In the eyes of the police Barrie was better off the streets and out of sight.

Glasgow Sheriff Court
 August 2010. Glasgow Sheriff Court. At the first trial the evidence, the pole, could not be found. Nevertheless, the judge postponed the trial and served Barrie with a curfew order- off the streets by 7pm. This only served to prevent him from evening visits with his two daughters who were suffering from meningitis.

Toilets at the court- the blue lighting prevents addicts finding a vein
 October 2010. Court Room 16. The second hearing was delayed- as usual. At one o’clock the court went into recess for lunch and Barrie’s lawyer suggested that I wrote a letter of commendation in case he was found guilty. I left Barrie and Scott to their liquid lunch and headed to a nearby cafe. When I returned Barrie was alone. He looked up at me and groaned “You’ll never faaken believe it...”
 The dynamic duo were life-saving while I was busy composing. A widower floated by them, face down, as they were taking refreshments by the banks of the Clyde. Without hesitation Scott dived into the black waters and retrieved the wouldbe suicide victim. The prosecuting witnesses (the police) were watching on as the event unfolded and escorted Scott to the hospital to have him checked out for hypothermia. Back in court Barrie’s lawyer confessed that this was a first in all his years of practice at the bar. The judge had to agree and the trial was adjourned- again.

November 2010. The morning of the big day and Scott downed a bottle of cream sherry, in one, to steady his nerves. Barrie’s lawyer couldn’t call a soused Scott to stand as witness- Barrie was on his own. In Court Room 16 the Procurator Fiscal produced evidence- a metal pole with Barrie's name attached. The police witness couldn’t identify the object as the 'weapon' from the crime scene! The pole, as he recollected from his notes, was wooden not metal. The Procurator Fiscal requested that the trial be adjourned for 45 minutes while they tried to locate the actual evidence! Three quarters of an hour later and- you’ll never faaken believe it! A wooden pole turned up, again with Barrie’s name on it. It was his word against theirs. Was Barrie implying that the police were committing perjury? The judge had no alternative other than to find him guilty of a ‘very serious’ crime.

 January 2010, sentencing day, Room 15, Glasgow Sheriff Court. I arrived in time for Barrie's lawyer to pass my letter of commendation to the judge. The judge peered over his spectacles at the room of assembled guilty and asked ”Is Mr Gavin Evans in court?” Barrie turned to me from the dock and I raised my finger. “Ah, the smartly dressed man at the front!” The heads of the condemned turned my way. “Mmm... Photographer in Residence with the National Theatre of Scotland,” he was impressed. In giving his verdict the judge summed that Barrie was indebted to his referees and, despite the serious nature of the crime, he would commute the sentence from a custodial term to one of 18 months probation.
 Without letters of commendation from 'professionals' could Barrie be serving a sentence in Barlinnie for a crime of fiction? You'd better believe it!

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.


In July I was approached by Dundee Health Services Unit. The unit was in the process of compiling the largest survey of the dental health and well-being of Scottish homeless people to date. 853 took part in a questionnaire and dental health checks- Barrie was one of the original interviewees for the project. A picture of the characteristics and needs of this group of people has been built up from the results. The next stage of the project is to; develop an oral health initiative for homeless people, offer assistance with finding a dentist, making and attending appointments and so on.
 The unit requested permission to use one of the 'biopic' images for the cover of the report. The reproduction fee was obvious- teeth for Barrie. Barrie and I had agreed long ago that our last photographic session would be when he could smile without stigma or embarrassment. The unit gladly agreed to this reciprocal arrangement. The end is nigh.

7 Jan 2011

Breaking with Convention

The sense - producing human machine works on the basis of a very simple law:

We cannot see all the phenomena we can think of,
and we cannot think about certain images we can see.

The power of the sense, which cannot be reproduced in words or images,
belongs to the world of human feelings, as inner side of every image or word.

The sense we live in - the sense behind the one we believe in - is a vehicle which can be used for our journey or abused for the journey of someone else.

23 September 1993
Dear Mr Evans,

I am writing with reference to the reproduction of one of the
photographs from your recent exhibition published in the Sunday
Times Magazine of 29 August 1993.

The British Red Cross has a special responsibility for monitoring
unauthorised use or misuse of the red cross emblem and of designs
closely resembling the red cross emblem within the United
Kingdom. This is part of the price we pay for the privilege to
use the red cross emblem in our work.

I realise that the photograph in question does not replicate
exactly the red cross emblem. However, the red cross used might
be said to fall within the statutory provision prohibiting use
of designs closely resembling the red cross emblem without prior
authorisation from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
(Section 6(2)(b) of the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 - copy
attached). Perhaps more importantly, you will understand that
the image is rather stark, with disturbing connotations, running
counter to the meaning of the red cross emblem and the
humanitarian objects of the International Red Cross.

As you may be aware, the red cross emblem is the internationally
agreed symbol of protection during armed conflicts. It is used
to safeguard the wounded and sick and those who seek to help them
in a totally neutral and impartial way. If the red cross is
used for other purposes, no matter how insignificant or
beneficial they may seem, its special significance will be
diminished and potentially lives may be lost.

I also enclose a leaflet which may help to explain more clearly
the restrictions on use of the red cross design. Similar
restrictions apply in most other countries.

Whilst respecting fully your freedom of expression as an artist,
I feel obliged to bring the special significance of the red cross
and the legal restrictions on its use to your notice and ask for
your understanding and co-operation.

I should be most grateful if you would kindly take the above
comments into account when producing future material.
Thank you in advance for your consideration and support.

The 'enclosed leaflets'

 The above warning was received when I was promoting my first, and last, commissioned exhibition 'dis'. I was astounded to find I had unwittingly broken the Geneva Convention. dis was a collaborative project that investigated the 'power of information'- a subject popularised by the introduction of Wikileaks. The image at the center of the controversy explored the appropriation of symbols and how sentiment or meaning could be changed or perverted. To the right a Lucky Strike cigarette packet is cut to reveal the word 'lust'. Lucky Strike claimed to change their branding from green to red during WW2 to save on copper used in the printing process. This was convenient propaganda; in reality the green graphic didn't appeal to female smokers. To the left is the image of a man broken into the shape of the Sanskrit symbol for good luck- the svastika. The svastika has had it's meaning irreparably changed by association with fascism. The positive '+' symbol that the body hangs on is corrupted by the negative connotations of the swastika. The '+' is on a black background though, not white and is also proportionately slimmer than the Red Cross logo. This incident clearly illustrates the value and sensitivity of information.

 The Glasgow Pavilion's Christmas pantomime production of Robin Hood has now fallen foul of the Red Cross rule. The character of a nurse wearing a uniform with a red cross has too broken the Geneva Convention. This has turned a pantomime into a farce. I thought that the choice of Jim Davidson as lead actor was enough to break any conventions of taste.

A friend slipped this pamphlet into my hands when I told him of the Red Cross's attempt to expurgate the project.

24 Sep 2010


The showmen have pitched-up on the Meadows. These fairground folk are fair folk- don't call them travellers- they are showmen. Under the stewardship of father and son team, John and Jordan Evans (no relation to me) are bringing all the fun of the fair to the Edinburgh locals.

John Evans

Jordan Evans

Sheldon Evans

Sheldon Evans Jnr

Greg Hickey

Tanya Hickey
Nyla Hickey

The world of the showman is a family affair.

11 Sep 2010

Take Your Pic

Mementos from the motherland.
Dreams can come true- take your pic.

8 Sep 2010

Ar Chaos on the Thames

A retrospective of the world of legendary French circus Archaos was launched tonight as part of the Mayor's Thames Festival. My work is the centre piece of the show but I couldn't afford the fare to London to give a first hand account of the audience's reaction. I'd have liked to meet the old performers again and recollect the days of diesel fumes and cunning stunts.
 The following is a selection of press/ publicity cuttings featuring my images:

The Guardian on-line

The Independent
The Stage

Mark Borkowski's Blog

Guardian paper
Free Art London

Coin Street

Thames Festival on-line

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 www.m.gavinevans.com 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.