After a brief warming up session with Justin at the back of the Stove (see Part 1) we moved to the nearby back alley to explore rooftops and fire escapes as urban lifestyle portrait locations. I liked the combination of bricks, concrete, metal mesh, graffiti and wire knots crossing the sky.

I often use the “magic bag” technique for my Urban Portraits Dumfries project when the participants are encouraged to surprise me with a mystery item to incorporate as a prop. I told Justin earlier that I wanted to draw more visually on urban lifestyles and he came up with a pair of climbing shoes for parkour-type images as an inspiration.

It was such a unusual, unexpected and photographically satisfying proposition because it allowed Justin to interact with urban spaces and architectural features in a more direct physical way.

We tested the back staircase and it was quite sturdy and secure. We also made sure we couldn’t damage anything. Justin assured me that he did this sort of thing before and it was safe. John, my husband, was standing out of the frame, to be at hand – just in case. And off we went taking urban portraits, rooftops and all…

The omnipresent knobbly wires were quite a distance away – their proximity is just an optical illusion in the photos. I left them in the frame because I felt they lent rooftop images an additional urban “industrial” touch.

We integrated some climbing, crawling, balancing and swinging movements into our photo shoot, navigating a familiar location, which people pass on their way to the car park without giving it a thought, in an unexpected way. Of course, we also took some more straightforward urban headshots and three quarter length portraits of Justin as well.

Back alleys and fire escapes are among my most favourite outdoor portrait sets, but it was the first time I had a subject who had climbing training, safe footwear for better sensitivity and balance, spacial awareness, agility and coordination to attempt this type of shots. Very happy!

Fire escape staircase as a portrait location
Justin Balancing on the railing of the fire escape
Sitting on the edge of the roof
Urban headshot of Justin
Under the fire escape
Urban portrait against the rooftop colours and textures
Dumfries back alley skyline
Justin on the rooftop for Urban Portraits Dumfries project
Silhouette against the rooftop edge
Urban climbing
Crawling the outside edge of the stairs
In the air
Justin hanging upside down from the fore escape

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