I was born in 1936 of Scottish parents. It is in such simple biographical details that the clues to motivation emerge.
In the 1960s I studied with photographer-teacher Jorge Lewinski (whilst raising a family) and began freelancing to national magazines. Later, studying for an education degree as a mature student, I used my photographic experience for a final year project on homeless people in London. This inaugural study left its mark and, though qualifying as a teacher, I then took up social work. Special interests in sociology led to working within the homeless field. For three decades thereafter I documented the places and people with whom I initially worked and my continuing relationships with a growing number of street homeless men and women. The emphasis of my photography has been on the hidden face of the growing numbers of homeless people within my adopted city, fueled by my personal anger and concern. Many of the homeless in London are of Celtic origin and are undergoing their second economic displacement. I am constantly affected by the unjust and frequently scurrilous labelling of the homeless, the main purpose of which is to help deflect the gaze from all root causes, social, economic and political.
My purpose is twofold: to document the faces of the people I know best - to render them visible; and to provide a visual platform for the ongoing debate surrounding those who are so badly marginalized. I feel, too, that there is a message of friendship and tolerance that could come across to the wider public from these images. Every photograph carries its own implicit narrative in the environmental detail of street or shelter, as well as in the expressions and clothing of those photographed. Many portraits are candids, shot on the hoof while spending much time with people. My street relationships nowadays are primarily social and photography per se is usually a secondary issue to the day's agenda.
Throughout the 1980s I tutored adult Photography courses in the areas of portraiture, photo essay and urban landscape. I am a post-graduate of the London College of Printing through studies on Photography: History and Culture, and I hold a Fellowship of The Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain (a distinction gained for work in the social documentary tradition). In recent years discussions on postmoderism have led to a partial directional shift in the manner of working, the result of which is the Identity color work shown on this site.
A selection of early 1970s work is held in the Moyra Peralta Collection of the Mary Evans Picture Library in London, and homeless images from the 1990s are held by the Camera Press agency. My work is used for fundraising and educational purposes by several charities working with the homeless and my sitters, with whom I share my fees, are genuinely pleased if a photograph is used to help others.
My book Nearly Invisible, with contributed texts by John Berger and Alan Bennett, was published in 2001. The selected photographs are dedicated as a tribute to all those I have known and photographed.