When I undertook my ‘street’ portrait project in 1984, I never thought I would be tramping the streets of Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire 35 years later, revisiting those I photographed…
On the 22nd August 2009 I received a message from someone I had met – for barely an hour – 25 years previously:
‘WOW…I totally remember this! I just had my 40th birthday party in America (where I live) and had the actual picture out on display. Everyone LOVED it! I love it too!’
The message was from Lisa and the picture she was referring to is the one that heads this blog. I still have 27 of the original 36 prints I exhibited – simply mounted on card and fixed, in sixes, on large sheets of hardboard I had covered with blackboard paint – at Scunthorpe Museum in 1985. In 2009 I photographed the prints, posted them on facebook and through friends of friends the post reached a homepage in Wisconsin, USA.
I’ve moved around a lot and things get lost; five years ago I discovered the 53 rolls of film that comprised my portrait project – all in perfect condition – in a box of stuff stowed away in my brother’s garage. I felt more could be done and this current project is the result.
Following her education, Lisa backpacked around Europe and Canada; she worked in a Greek bar and was a fruit picker in Beamsville, Ontario. (Interestingly, Beamsville lies between Lincoln and Grimsby – named after the Lincolnshire county town and the Lincolnshire port, must have seemed like home from home.)
Although Lisa studied jewellery and clothing at Grimsby Art College she works as a financial planner – quite a change of direction I thought – in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Lisa has lived in the United States for 22 years now, having first gone over when her then partner got relocated from the UK. That relationship faltered and she now lives above the recording studios of her fiancé, Brad (in a rather splendid building I might add).
The new photographs were taken at the home of Lisa’s parents in Scunthorpe the day before she was due to fly back; because the original portrait was one of my favourites I had rearranged the start date of my project. I’m glad I did…
…oh, and Brad reminded me instantly of the singer/songwriter, Neil Young.
Bruce has always worked in the construction industry. He moved to south London in 1987, after Big Red Gun, a band he played bass for, split up. He auditioned with a couple of bands that didn’t really go anywhere, bought a house in Caterham, Surrey in 1990 and didn’t really play for a couple of years.
In 1994 Bruce started playing in a covers band and got to to know ‘some guys with whom I’m still good friends with and still play with to this day.’
‘Whilst playing with function bands The Stonebeats (60s tribute) , The Xscene , and Blondie tribute band, Plastic Letters l had the real pleasure of meeting and playing with a few people who feature in my record collection: Mathew Fischer from Procul Harum, Darren Mooney from Primal Scream and Dave Ruffy from The Ruts.’
Bruce moved back to Scunthorpe in 2006 and bought a couple of properties that he rents out. He is still involved in the local music scene and plays bass with Pointblank. He tells me that he also does ‘a fair bit of ‘depping’, still get the occasional call from the guys down south to cover a gig, always a good catch up.’
I was walking through Central Park, Scunthorpe when I crossed paths with Hayley all those years ago. She was with two friends – one of them was called Heather I recall – and I asked if I could take some photographs, promising not to hold them up for too long. The resulting shot is one of my favourites – though ostensibly nothing more than a snap – which has, for me, a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ and it is appropriate that I conclude my project with it.
Considering that briefest of encounters, when I met Hayley at her home recently it was like meeting an old friend. She is incredibly easy to chat to, laughs a lot and for the life of me I can’t remember what it was we talked about. She shares her home with her partner and her son and there is a feel of comfort about the place: I remember lots of cushions, fabric, furniture you sink into and interesting things on the walls.
At some stage of her life so far, Hayley felt she needed a break and decided on a six week trip to visit her uncle in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. This sojourn was to lead to a vastly extended stay in the States. After meeting up with a travelling companion, Hayley took off for the city and lived in both New York and New Jersey. After meeting a guy and marrying him she moved north and spent the following 10 years in Rhode Island.
Hayley is now back in her home town and seemed very settled to me. She works as a community mental health nurse and works for the NHS in the Memory Assessment and Therapy Service.