I invited Nikki and her son Lewis to take part in my Urban Portraits Dumfries project after meeting (and photographing them) aboard the tall ship La Malouine when it first arrived to dock at Kingholm Quay harbour. Natural and laid back in front of the camera, this mother and son duo were perfect subjects for backstreet urban portraits, a sub-genre for the open-minded and the curious.
Early in the project I committed myself to approach Dumfries in my portraits as a rich visual tapestry of colours, textures and cultural signifiers. While some of our sessions were photographed on High Street or in obvious tourist landmarks, others explored locations off the beaten track, idiosyncratic nooks and crannies with unique visual impact.
Those following my urban photography posts may have noticed that I often find myself photographing in back alleys – it appeals to my sense of urban aesthetics. So part of Nikki and Lewis’s session took place in the off-shoots of Friars Vennel and Brewery Street.
As a warm up we chose a cute little shop on Friars Vennel with the “LOVE” plaque displayed in the window. It was just right for a family portrait. Then in one of the side alleys we found an abandoned house where a rusting window fencing was used to frame Lewis.
Brewery Street offered a wealth of really interesting urban locations. Rustic textures and oddly painted pipework of the Whitesands shops rear walls helped to draw attention to my lovely subjects and added a little randomness to their backstreet urban portraits.
The picturesque pile of empty beer casks at the back of the pub became a spontaneous prop for Nikki, who remembered the days when she managed a pub herself.
The cavernous arch of the tunnel under Buccleuch Street had “NO ENTRY” sign created a feeling of a little intrigue. It made a stage for Lewis’s antiques and a set for a touching mother and son hug image.
We also played with projecting Lewis’s shadows on a wall.
Our session continued on the banks of the river Nith, but I’ll leave this part of the story for a future blog post.