Here’s a post I’ve been sitting on for a while. I wrote it all up and had grand plans to share it months ago (not least because I put together a video to go along with it), but then just… didn’t.
Back in the Summer of 2022, I had been making a real effort to take whatever opportunity I could get to wander about Glasgow and take pictures. Being able to travel again for the first time in a few years provided a bit of inspiration, and I’ve tried to ride that wave.
As part of that effort, I picked up a Ricoh GR IIIx, which is exactly the same as one of my favourite cameras (the Ricoh GR III), but with a 40mm lens instead of a 28mm lens, meaning that I am able to more easily get some of the shots I was struggling with before, as Glasgow is a bit less densely packed with people as places like New York.
In addition to that, I had been toying with the idea of finding ways to bring more of the pictures I take onto my YouTube channel, to hopefully help sustain inspiration. For a long time I’ve had cyclical periods of intense interest in my creative areas, and have found that making videos – for whatever reason – has helped smooth out those peaks and valleys, at least when it comes to making music. As part of that, I’ve been exploring different ways of filming some of my street photography adventures, and taking a cue from my friend Lee (who has a great photo channel), I picked up a teeny tiny DJI Action 2 camera, which clips onto my shirt. It arrived on the Saturday morning, and in the afternoon I jumped on the bus, keen to try it out. Pictured below is the camera with the power module attached, being charged up on a pit stop in the pub after a few hours of walking.
Ah yes, the bus. I’ve had to get the bus increasingly frequently, due to a myriad of cancellations, service reductions, and in the case of this weekend – strikes. ScotRail are useless. The one good thing is that I can sometimes blag the front seat on the top floor of a double decker, which provides a brilliant view of the street below. Here, you can see a couple of girls tentatively approaching an unusually large gathering of pigeons. Not long after that, they took off into the air – hurtling right towards the bus. I was sure they were going to smack through the windows. Alas, I was safe.
It was a bright day in Glasgow, and there were still plenty of folks sitting outside, even though the dizzy heights of the previous weeks’ temperatures have dropped a fair bit by now. To be honest that’s probably for the best. Glaswegians aren’t built for sun. They go mental.
My first stop was the Barras, as I wanted to see if I could find some old, crappy digital cameras going for cheap. A few years ago these were everywhere, and nobody wanted them, but they are beginning to make a resurgence. In all honesty I suspect it is probably misplaced nostalgia, as these cameras were crap. However, I would like to see for myself. Alas, nowhere had any. All of the charity shops seemingly having shut down, or no longer selling electronics. We need some Goodwill or Hard-Off shops here… though I did find a few cool film cameras including an Argus and a Kodak Instamatic 304. Unfortunately, the Argus was too pricey for a camera that I would never use in practice (£55), and while the Kodak was only a tenner (and also looked cool af), it was busted. I decided that I had enough random cameras lying around the flat already, so left it where it was.
I shot quite a lot of black and white today, despite the sun bringing out a more vibrant palette. The Ricoh GR IIIx lets you shoot both JPG and raw, and I like the contrasty results of the monochrome setting, so I opted for a bit of both. Black and white when it worked. RAW when I wanted colour. In the end, the final mix was about half and half.
Whenever I go out shooting street pictures in Glasgow, I tend to stick around the same route; up and down Buchanan, Sauchiehall, and Argyle Streets. Today though, after completing one of the usual circuits, I felt compelled to meander further – and found myself ambling up Great Western Road, to the West End.
In total, I walked a total of 23,000 steps – or just over 10 miles, which isn’t to be sniffed at. I am sure plenty of people walk that every day. Good for you. I don’t. I work from home. From the couch. From where I am writing this very blog post.
What’s funny (or perhaps, just mildly interesting) is that I used to walk about 5 miles a day from where I lived in the Gallowgate, up to the University and back, because I couldn’t afford to pay for the subway ticket. It wasn’t until that stopped that I realised how much I enjoyed it. Making my way through town every day, soaking in the atmosphere, and picking up on all of the interesting bits and pieces that comprise city life, which you can easily overlook or take for granted. It gave my mind time to wander, and helped me feel part of the fabric of the place.
Over the course of a few hours today, I shot a ludicrous number of pictures, and even after culling all of the crap ones, I was still left with well over 300 that I deemed acceptable enough to keep. Out of those 336, I uploaded 123 to this post. After dumping them all in and moving them around, I realised that they became a single mass – each indiscernible from the next. It wasn’t until I started writing about some of my thoughts that they came alive again, and I guess that makes sense. Single images on their own can speak volumes, but when you are presented with a large set, sometimes words are needed to provide context; some reasoning behind what the beholder found interesting. With that in mind, some commentary on specific pictures will follow…
I spotted this girl with the bunch of sunflowers and knew I had to get a picture, but she was in a really awkward position for me to do it justice. I did a half kind of spin thing and came up with this. I wonder who the flowers were for. What occasion calls for sunflowers? Naturally, this one couldn’t be in black and white.
In the following picture, this guy was eating noodles in a really unnatural manner. I grabbed a picture, and didn’t realise until afterwards that he was being filmed with a pretty chunky camera rig. Is this some (fellow) YouTube prick?
I spotted these plastic ‘bullets’ on the ground on Great Western Road, and backed up to grab a picture. Some women told me that they weren’t real. I’m not sure how they knew that, but then again, given that it’s Glasgow, who knows.
I loved how happy this dog’s face was.
In fact, I love taking pictures of dogs in general.
Including strange ornamental dogs in vintage shops.
I’m not alone in this by the way. There’s a book of incredible dog photographs by famous photographer Elliot Erwitt that you should definitely look up. It’s one of my favourites. When asked why he took photos of dogs, he apparently said he did it because he liked them; they didn’t object; and they didn’t ask for prints. Sounds about right. Apart from the prints part anyway. Nobody likes photography enough to ask for prints any more.
If there are no dogs around, birds can be cool too.
Something else I’ve come to really enjoy is discovering pictures where people have made clear eye contact with me or the camera. I used to be terrified of folks looking at or noticing me while out taking street pictures, but realised that this was ridiculous – especially given how distinctive I am. The irony is that taking pictures the way I do, folks rarely realise that I am interested in them, and I’ve been able to capture them looking me up and down. Of course, maybe they know full well what I’m doing and just don’t say anything.
I really like this picture below – mostly because of the amount of eye contact going on – but also because I didn’t even notice this had happened until after the fact. I wanted to get a picture of the guy playing the instrument in the background, and was busy looking at the guy on the right who was walking right at me, and didn’t realise that the girl on the left had turned around and stared right at me.
I also really love the next example, where I managed to capture the person smiling, with eye contact.
The next shot is one of my favourites from the whole day. Maybe even my favourite. There was a bunch of kids playing on the pavement, taking up a whole load of space and not caring that they were in the way or bumping into people. You know, the kind of thing kids do. One of them was hanging back a bit, and I grabbed this shot as he was adjusting his glasses. Again, the eye contact is what makes it so compelling. To me, anyway.
Here’s some serious eye contact going on.
I really liked the feeling of this next picture. It’s at a set of lights in the West End which is notorious for taking forever to cycle through and let pedestrians cross, and the lassie’s expression was really intriguing; the way her hands are positioned in particular. Of course, looking at it now she’s probably just holding the microphone of her headphones closer to talk into, but why ruin the magic.
Sometimes, I just like contrasts. Not the obvious thematic kind, but actual contrasts of light and dark. I favour vibrant, overly saturated, high contrast images in general, so that shouldn’t be a surprise.
Of course, sometimes a good old cliched conceptual contrast can be good too. See if you can spot the one below.
There are endless debates around the ethics of street photography in general, but more specifically around taking pictures of homeless people. From my perspective, I never want to take pictures of somebody in a way that is deliberately unflattering, or where they are clearly in distress, but I also don’t think that erasing or white-washing people out of existence from a city’s representation is necessarily correct either.
My pal Lee has an obsession with shopping trolleys – or more specifically – taking pictures of them, so everytime I see one now, I have to grab a shot too. Think of it as an homage. They do always end up in strange places.
I am fairly pleased with the set of pictures that I got today. None of them are particularly earth shattering on their own, but I shot more in a few hours in Glasgow than I did in two days in New York a few weeks ago, which is kind of wild, considering how uninspired I’ve been with my home city for such a long time.
The most important thing really is that I keep taking pictures, because when I put my camera down, I might not pick it up again for a long time.
The one thing about videoing the escapade today was that I had to stop every so often to charge up the DJI Action 2. It was a real chore, let me tell you
For now, I’ll leave you with some parting shots. If you haven’t already, go watch the companion video to this post. It’ll be worth it. Trust me. Maybe.
The positioning of the crane above this girls’ head looks worse than it is.