Everyone warned me against it. “It’ll be hard”, “you’ll get a kicking”, “rather you than me”, “for what ? it’s a shitehole”, “be careful”. I was warned my short hair would make me look like a policeman.
I was going to try and photograph at Paddy’s Market in Glasgow, Scotland, just to the south east of the city centre. A 150 metre long cobbled street, running parallel to, and tucked alongside railway arches. A flea market. The type of market people warned you that you’d catch fleas in. The type of market, it was said, where people went to buy one shoelace. And in recent years the type of market some people went to buy cheap cigarettes, alcohol, and heroin.
Its reputation was a long one with a 200 year old history. Rumours had circulated for years that it would close, but as these rumours got ever louder I decided I needed my own set of images from the market before it did indeed disappear (and it did indeed close years later). I chose a date, a weekday for it did not operate on weekends. I spoke with a colleague who worked nearby about how to approach it. I didn’t shave for a day or two. I chose my clothes carefully. Dressed down, jeans, and a loose baggy over the head type jacket, with a pocket at the front for a clutch of HP5. I settled on taking only one Leica, small, quick, easily put in the pocket.
The problem would not be the stall holders, or the people looking for one shoe lace. The problem would be the drug dealers down the River Clyde end of the lane, or of the junkies who had some stolen goods to offset against their hit of heroin.
So there I went, I mingled. I tried as much as possible to talk to people, stall holders, hang out as if I was part of the scene, but of course my face wasn’t known. But people are people, I was treated fairly. I would chat, stand, look at things, and shoot, shoot, shoot when I could. I never tried to hide the camera, to do so you look suspicious. When asked I would say I was shooting a college project, for some reason Glasgow folks expect that of “arty types”. I would shoot, and acknowledge the people I was photographing. I talked of the rumours of closure. I tried to be more Glaswegian than I am in my choice of words and sentence structure.
I forget now if I had trouble of any sort, maybe one or two questions, nothing that couldn’t be handle with a “no problem mate, sorry” and walk away. I survived the day, it wasn’t so hard, a few rolls shot. I think I planned to return for a second day, but didn’t, I quit whilst I was ahead. A fortnight later I heard another photographer went there.
I got told he got a kicking.