The Fountain

I took this photograph last night. It marks the most recent advance in a long list of failure.
Failure isn’t something widely talked about, especially by those fraught with it. And especially not, by photographers. I am lowering the tone but after all my recent grand successes and fruitions, it is only to strike a balance to write about that which is forgotten when fortune rides around. Success itself is a frustrated process, only so because of defeat and disappointment. But there are no moralistic preachments here today, as i’m sure i normally would have it. I have no words to turn vinegar to wine. This kind of failure is failure complete, from which there is no turning around and any lesson learned is a false compromise. This failure is the failure to act, and here no one wins.
Above is the folding façade of the Fountainpark Brewery. Closed in 2004, before i ever arrived on the scene. Some rusting megalith to values and industry of a forgotten past. Having never lived more than 10 minutes from the site, I walked past it so many times it became invisible. It wasn’t until tiny protrusions of scaffolding and  jet-black hoarding began to appear that my ears pricked up. In an area now overrun with clean, new, polished, empty apartment complexes, i saw the inevitable in the old brewery. What was actually a skeleton of a once enormous brewery was due to start full demolition September last year. Nearly a year on, and it is all but razed to the earth.
 When i found out for certain, i’m not sure what stirred me, but i felt hugely sad that I was on the doorstep of a chapter of history closing. I discovered on an old map drawing from the 1870’s that the Fountain Brewery was indeed writ large. As was Edinburgh, with huge thanks to its brewing industry arm. Exporting  internationally and competing in the elite, it was young muscle on an economic ledger. Here now is the great symptom of modernity. Forgetfulness and thanklessness of our past. In Leith, in Slateford, in Canongate, in Craigmiller, here at the canal, old terraced houses built for the families of the factory workers. Roofs that weathered the storm of paucity and hardship to ferry their families to a more comfortable future. And a promise fulfilled.
Kicking my way down Gilmore Park some freezing night, looking at my breath against the blinding fluorescence of the wrecking crew lamps, I realised there was nothing i could do, and i was out of my element even trying. So i did nothing. I took a few choice pictures of the outside and gradually the sensation of calm and curiosity i enjoyed when i took a shortcut past and smelled the canal and the old stone and metal, became replaced by guilt. In the final months of college I launched a feeble project to document  the structure’s demise. I focused on recognisable markings of the plant that had been marred by the demolition. I never approached anyone about access to the inside. Maybe they would have said yes?  Either way, the photos are not very good. But they draw on a power that dictates all of photography, the power of time. That soon all will be gone and the photos will age, showing an old place where a brewery once stood.
But this is no documentary. In these photos you cannot feel the heritage and age of this old site, the frantic activity of the canal, in a time long ago enough to be a foreign land. You cannot imagine the faces of the workers, and their expressions when the doors closed and their overalls hung up for the last time. You cannot feel the change and the time that has seen this thing through. You only feel the empty silence of an old utility plant crumbling down.  And you cannot feel the strange romance i have developed for the place over the last 4 years, all falling away.


This is the image i submitted as my final print in our exhibition last friday. At the end of 2 weeks of some very heavy shooting it makes a huge impact being able to see the fruits, ripe and framed. For all of us, we produced and amazingly diverse exploration of Paris and French culture to a really high standard. The exhibition gave us the rare chance to see everything together for once though. We don’t often get to see a collection of our styles and subjects spread out in front of us, and less so do we get to do it with a glass of french cider.

Paris: le doc

Documentary chat 101. The reason i am in Paris at all is on a work experience project funded by a European educational foundation. The nature of bringing us here is to allow us two glorious things. To explore a foreign city and plunge right in to its cultural tide, but to also expose and document what we see as we see it. We are, if nothing else, given a small voice. It is also engineered to encourage us to represent through photography, Paris through the medium of documentary. We are granted licence to investigate something foreign, visually. We are allowed to be our own masters, to try new techniques or approaches, to push ourselves out of our comfort zone or refine our workflow with a time limit and a dead line.

In order for us to carry this out we have a few nifty treats at our disposal. The first and second are free flights and free accomodation directly in the heart of Paris. The third and in the same vein, is a little cushion of cash to allow us transport, access and the all important cuisine. So we are, if nothing else, given a small voice and a lot of money. But once the struggle of finances is taken care of, we have little excuse but to get right to it, and since the word is documentary, its about time that we get out our dictionaries.

For the documentary photographer, there is clash of identity especially when landed in the centre of the biggest tourist hothouse in Europe. When everyone carries a camera and every subject is aware, jaded and unwelcoming to the turn of the lens, there is a hard and difficult moment where you need to stop being a tourist. For me over the last few days the shutter has been snapping  less, the gaze has trained in and my pace has slowed down. The barrage of beutiful and compelling shapes, colours and textures is ebbing away and now i can feel a story out on the streets that needs to be told. At the moment, this is what i think is the call of the documentary. I am not really taking pictures, i am now looking for images. And a cheap pint.

The search continues, stay tooned

Mesdames, Messieurs, le disc-jockey Sash! est de retour.