My own story was of fragments and incomplete exploration
I wandered Glasgow for five days, and in that quintuple I came to realise that we experience urban transience as flashes of narratives (flash fiction, if you will) that we cannot hope to fully comprehend. Is this because of the nature of walking as commute? To move from one point to the other in a haze of selective ignorance, a temporality of being that is exacerbated if we know our way too well. Earphones with music, podcasts, radio or, in the absence of that, daydreaming; to walk means to not be present, oftentimes. And what about the pressing spectrum of lateness? Nothing shuts you off to unnecessary distractions than needing to rush to catch a train. Something needs to happen for us to consider the many flashes and images we see before us, and have seen too many times, in a new light.
My own story was of fragments and incomplete exploration, of course, and, depending on your definition, as a curator of sorts. I stepped onto this Scottish this city of hurrahs, high spirits, urban decay, friendly greetings, and harsh words shouted in thick accents, with my camera often dangling from my neck. My aesthetic eye looks for the forgotten, the abandoned, the corners where plastic wrappers wait in vain to decompose and where rust turns the once mighty to dust. I was a walker amongst many, momentarily trying to understand the impossible forces of chance, circumstance, time and death as I passed, glanced, moved past them too quickly to consider their existence fully. An indecipherable number of images flashing before my mind’s eye each telling its own story and then… nothing. Gone. Captured by my shutter. I moved on and that story no longer held my interest, at least until I reviewed what was held by my camera’s SD card. Compartmentalisation, it is all gone once the senses cannot perceive it. The photographs I took represent one angle at a time, one point of view, one singular moment in time as digital code translated into visual material; these are both success in a creative sense as well as a failure from my part at truly being present – for my own aesthetic sense requires me to traverse the space, never to fully, wholly inhabit it. The urban wandering way is how I chose to tell these stories. A deliberate choice or a victim of the long thread of knotted circumstances that has led to me becoming this particular type of photographer. I believe that there is less choice in what we are interested in than previously perceived.
grass signals to me the true in-between spaces of the city
In Glasgow I saw the beauty of a city that is much like an old man, fit here, dying there. South of the river and no farther away than two-hour’s walk are many an empty slab of concrete where something once stood. Perhaps those transients walking across the road from me could see the ghosts haunting that would not appear before me; I lacked the memory of what had been. I wasn’t local. But perhaps they saw the exact same physical space as I did, full of sale signs and prices in the thousands written with a thick felt-tipped marker. Whatever the other transients saw, I like to think that we didn’t exactly saw the same car dealership.
It was the first and only time I visited Glasgow, and the places I felt the most comfortable in where devoid of glass and shiny chrome. No, my comfort was amongst the grey dust from silent roads collecting under bypasses, which, together with bottle caps and exploded tyres debris, blocked off a space for grass, tough as a knife wound, to grow. That grass signals to me the true in-between spaces of the city, where traffic cones and concrete barriers were left forgotten for the hooligans with spray cans to celebrate in codes I lack the cultural context to comprehend. In those places, I find beauty. It isn’t the beauty of wanting, of wishing I had this in my house, but something else. With my camera I see beauty in the abandoned and rotting because of choice: others despise it, others ignore it, but these things are real and if only you let your brain suddenly shift… you’ll appreciate them. Just imagine what we could say if there was a word for the way grey dust collects next to unfrequented streets? A word for booze bottles broken in front of a back-alley mechanics? A word for a stolen traffic cone left perched on a historical statue? There aren’t words for any of them. But there are my photographs of those places people can only choose to walk past and never inhabit, for grass only the emaciated would consider eating can grow there.
The graffiti is thought of elsewhere.