I had been shooting a self-commissioned project photographing Glasgow teenagers. My somewhat unorthodox technique was to drive into a rough part of the city, take the cameras out of the boot, walk up to a group of youths, and ask if I could photograph them. This was often met by a look of absolute bemusement at the young Englishman standing in front of them with lots of expensive equipment over his shoulders, but it rarely – amazingly – resulted in a refusal.
The deal I struck on this occassion was that I could photograph them, but I couldn’t show any faces. Over the next four or five hours, I photographed them setting fire to a car they claimed to have stolen the night before, breaking into and vandalising a disused flat, and other low-level criminality. We’d stopped for a rest on this path besides the canal, and I thought I’d chance it. I put the camera to my eye and shot a single frame.
When I look back at it now, I can see it was a moment of decision for them. The youth on the left doesn’t know what to do now. The guy on the right, with the flexible car aerial that he used to whip someone with earlier is clearly up for giving me a beating. I put the camera down, and not another word was said about it.
Nick McGowan-Lowe began his working career with seven years freelancing for Scottish newspapers such as The Scotsman and short-lived business daily Business AM before concentrating on magazine, public relations and commercial work. Photographer since 1996, EPUK member since 2000.
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