‘Walk on by’ David Graham Scott, 2017
I call myself a documentary filmmaker but in actual fact I have keenly observed the world around me as a stills photographer too. I don’t pretend to be particularly talented in that respect but I do have a keen eye for the offbeat and unusual. The people who pedestrians shy away from and just walk on by are often the subjects I’ve a particular interest in.
Take this recent trip I made to London in Easter 2017. With my ever present Sony Nex-6 camera to hand I’ll often come across a scene that has a certain gravitas to it. A man lies dead to the world around him in Trafalgar Square. I swear that poor fellow could have literally died and it would have taken some time before anyone stopped to check on him. I know there’s always the chance such a character could turn on you but from personal experience I’ve rarely had this happen (Rochester being a sad exception).
In this instance I did check on the man in the image above and he did respond. After retreating a few yards, I watched as countless people just walked past what seemed to be a lifeless corpse. A man taking a break from his street art daubings perhaps? Well after a perusal of the National Gallery’s artistic gems, with my dear friend Sir Alexander Falconer, this same denizen of the streets was in exactly the same position and hardly got a cursory glance….and yes, I did recheck to see he was still in the land of the living.
‘Walk on by’ David Graham Scott, 2017
A few yards away I noted a most extraordinary juxtaposition. The bronze sculpture of James II, resplendent in his roman armour, points to a patch of lawn a few yards to his right. By chance a homeless man had decided to bed down on that hallowed piece of ground. I’ve often sought out similar compelling contrasts within my documentary films. They’re not always immediately noticeable in an initial viewing but with the photographs I took on that Easter weekend the images are obviously loaded with pathos and ironic social commentary.
‘Is this a man I see before me?’ David Graham Scott, 2017.
London’s streets are paved with such pathos and a discerning eye cannot fail to notice those who have fallen on hard times. As the inner workings of the city move inexorably forward towards greater and greater money making ventures the grinding poverty and hopelessness are even more strikingly apparent.
‘Despair’ David Graham Scott, 2017
A man sits in a doorway for over half an hour….never changing position…life on hold. I perused the scene as we sat in a nearby cafe. Sir Alex wants to give the chap a donation. A pound or two may provide a temporary fix but a photograph has so much more potential to initiate real change through compassion and understanding. You could make a valid claim that it’s intrusive like all my other documentary work but what’s the alternative? Turn a blind eye and walk on by? I’m part of a tradition that goes back many hundreds of years in fact. Take a look at the early Flemish and German paintings of Bruegel and Cranach and you’ll see real peasant faces peering out at you and not the idealised images of beauty associated with the Italian Renaissance. Those painters were social commentators of their time.
As the dusk sets in we come across a couple of fellows waiting to score by a strip bar. Truth be told, it’s not actually a venue for naked dancers anymore. They just left the STRIP TEASE signs on it as a novelty attraction. Another ‘upmarket’ and shallow little club with a pretend facade harking back to Soho’s days as the sleaze quarter of central London. The only striptease inside consists of the naked lies being sold and fleecing your pockets bare with overpriced cocktails. At least these two guys seemed the real deal. The image of the two crack users in an archetypal ‘shabby’ doorway was almost too perfect and I wondered if they were some bizarre publicity gimmick by this fraudulent establishment. Sir Alex passed them a few coins as did I. Good enough payment for a few photographs and they seemed more than happy to do the I’m-clapped-out-and-don’t-give-a-damn routine. Maybe the Louis Vuitton bag was a tad out of place though.
‘Waiting for the man’ David Graham Scott, 2017
So I was saying my goodbyes to Sir Alex near the subway when a final character emerged. Gold dust for my camera and obviously seeking attention. His street placard was pointing down to the ground so I assumed he’d done his day’s work. I knew right away this was a chap who’d be more than happy to tell his woes. We engaged him in conversation and I asked if he wouldn’t mind posing for a photograph.
‘Dariusz Isanski: The most famous person in the world’ David Graham Scott, 2017
His placard has a link to a Youtube video which he calls “Dariusz Isanski The most famous person in the world”. It’s currently got 346 views. This article will probably push it up a bit through the link below:
Dariusz is clearly mentally ill. He has delusions that he’s being attacked by mysterious agencies sending beams into a device that’s been implanted in the back of his skull. He says that his best friend is David Guetta, the internationally famous DJ, and he’s in regular contact with him regarding the cyber attacks and Bilderberg plots that are destroying his life. Why would there be a huge international conspiracy against one lonely Polish guy in London? Who knows?
Sir Alex and I listened to him intently but it wasn’t easy with his strong Polish accent and habit of flitting from one subject to the next in the space of a few seconds. Having said that I always respect the eccentric and offbeat characters who grace our streets. They truly bring some colour to our surroundings and unlike the ‘average Joe’ will usually engage you in lively conversation.
Dariusz no doubt found some solace in his daily sojourns through central London with his crudely made placard. An enigmatic outsider no doubt but all he wanted was for someone to listen to his troubles. He had his cross to bear like many of the other outcasts we came across this day.
Was Jesus Himself not an outcast? A very apt way to spend an Easter holiday weekend then I guess.
David Graham Scott, April 2017