Last time we caught up with photographer Craig Gibson, he was infiltrating Baptist churches for a body of work called Born After Birth, which was later exhibited at the Fresh Faced + Wild Eyed show at The Photographers’ Gallery. Since then he’s moved down from Glasgow to London, and like many coming to the city has thrown himself into the hustle of picking up commercial work and making rent. But recently Craig has had some more time to pick the personal work back up, creating intimate portraits with similar sensitivity to Born After Birth, but instead focusing on some of the people inhabiting his new home city.
“I liked strange topics, cults and groups that led to uncommon subjects,” says Craig of his interests when we last caught up. "But after a while your tastes change, and you become inspired by different things. Now I prefer a more simplistic approach, giving images more of a feel than a narrative. I’m mainly drawn to things that make people congregate: a place, a religion, a hobby or an obsession.”
For his Cherry series, Craig was struck by the everyday beauty of people when commuting, via Walthamstow Central bus station. “I would see the way the light was falling around the station and the people in it,” he tells It’s Nice That. “The station is like a small island of about six bus stops and at the end of it is the entrance to the Victoria Line. So I thought I’d see what kind of project I could make on that island with the passers-by.” Hanging around to watch people, he’d approach characters with interesting faces to see whether they’d agree to a portrait. “A lot of the time I’d be pleasantly surprised by who said yes and equally as surprised at who would say no,” says Craig. “Everyone there is just waiting on something.”
On the other hand, the people Craig has captured as part of Shows are revelling in their leisure time, enjoying sunny afternoons at one of London’s many travelling fairs. “_Shows_ came about from stumbling across a funfair with my girlfriend,” says Craig. “We went in and it was really nostalgic, everything was pretty much exactly as we remembered it from the 90s: spray painted backdrops of famous people like Keith Flint, Jay-Z, Naomi Campbell, J-Lo and so on, cash and tokens only, ice cream vans and candy floss – like a time warp.” Attracted to how saturated everything was at the “show” (the Scottish term for a fair), Craig ventured across the capital shooting portraits. “The project ended naturally as the summer came to a close, so I moved on,” he says.
Despite their different content, both series showcase Craig’s masterful use of natural light. “I look at light and how it falls constantly,” adds Craig. “I feel a lot of documentary photography tends to look quite flat and that’s something I try to avoid. I like to use the sun, it feels more optimistic.” In Cherry, Walthamstow bus station has a magical quality, flooded with early morning sunlight, while you can feel the warmth radiating from the images in Shows – even a burger stand looks sun-kissed. They also show his immense skill at putting people at ease – a huge feat given the fact that his subjects are complete strangers – leading to a natural set of portraits that show an intimacy far beyond what you’d expect.
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