By Steve Roe
The UK streets have a distinct look, brutalist architecture, huge sheets of concrete, a lack of colour. Most estates in the UK harness a grit, a grit that can be felt in UK music and film, and one that is hard to replicate in other countries. Photographer Jamie Dyer, based in Scotland, works predominately in the realm of double exposure on film. His photos encapsulate the grit yet soften them in to a dream-like visual, portraying the hidden romance that can be felt for the streets of the UK.
"Contemporary artist working across traditional and new mediums. Photography forms the foundation of all the projects I undertake. Everything starts with the lens and allows for ideas to come from the process of shooting film, the visiting of a location, the developing of the film, it creates a period of time where you are able to focus on what you trying to achieve and what you want the final work to look like."
First, let’s talk equipment, what do you use to shoot with?
I use a Konica A4 point and shoot for the majority of my work. I think for street photography a point and shoot gives you something that allows you to work quickly and not miss things that you might otherwise with a different camera and a good one means you are not comprising on quality.
I have a lovely old Olympus that I take out sometimes if there is a specific thing I’m going out to take photos of but day to day I find the Konica has been the most enjoyable camera I have ever used, plus it fits nicely in your pocket so it great for taking out when you are not necessarily planning on shooting.
What is it about film that draws you to it so much rather than digital?
Using film forces you to be selective. It’s easy to take a great photograph these days but I think it’s difficult to take a great photo consistently. Film helps you develop your eye and understand what you like taking pictures of. In such a saturated world with everyone taking photos constantly it can be difficult to focus your attention and develop as a photographer. I found using film helped me understand more about composition, lighting and exposures as you can’t rely on the camera or photoshop to fix mistakes. A big part of photography for me is the time spent in the locations shooting, if you only have 36 shots available to you then you’ll spend more time looking and thinking about what you are shooting.
What do the streets of the UK represent to you? Why are you more attracted to places like underpasses and apartment blocks rather than the modern architecture of the city centre?
I live in a modernist high rise in Scotland, so I am more interested in documenting spaces that are functional and represent the interaction people have with their cities. Domestic architecture has always been a keen interest of mine as it's one of the essentials of living, yet many people struggle to obtain quality, affordability and security.
Most people don’t see beauty in older domestic buildings and certainly the modernist period of architecture polarises opinion, so I think I’ve always strived to try and see the beauty in places that possibly others ignore or don’t think about. There was a real sense of utopianism to 20th century modernism which may not have delivered universal success, but it at least represents a time before commodification took over every aspect of contemporary living.
I spend time in a few different cities regularly and I suppose I’m always drawn to similar things. Domestic buildings, anything made with concrete. Underpasses are interesting as areas that where created as transient spaces to allow people to navigate the urban sprawl but are rarely seen as destinations themselves, I think through documenting places like this it helps you to re-evaluate how functional the environment around you is and who it’s been built for.
London and other metropolises are increasingly defined by the negative aspects of gentrification and the detrimental effect this has on people who need places to live and enough money to survive.
Most forms of street photography will touch on the injustices of modern life in one form or another as densely populated areas always have the strongest contrasts of the good and bad of our present order of things.
I have family in London still so I’m down every now and again and I think with all globalised cities I have a constant feeling that much of the city has become something that is built and maintained only for visitors and those with money to spend. I feel similar things about my home city of Edinburgh, considerably smaller but still dealing with similar issues.
Talk us through your double exposure work, what drew you to that?
Pure serendipity really. I’ve always liked image creation and I’d made some double exposed prints in the dark room previously, but they were very staged things generating two of the same exposure sitting next to each other.
I then accidently double exposed a film that I didn’t realise I had already shot on and I loved the results, there’s something great about the unknown when double exposing a film. You can try and control the results to a certain extent writing down roughly what you have taken on each frame and trying to piece together different things that might work well but I find the photos I like most are ones that compile imagery that I might not have thought to put together.
When you look at a window often you will be presented with two planes of reality; what’s through the window as well as the reflection of what is behind you. I really like these compositions are they are grounded in something real, and can only be seen by being present in the location but seem abstract and other worldly. I think a double exposed picture has a similar effect so possibly looking through so many windows down the years has drawn me to this way of taking pictures.
Finally, any advice for people looking to start out with street photography?
I think initially to just go out without any plan or idea of what you want to take photos of. That way you will find yourself naturally drawn to things that interest you and as you progress you can start to be more structured with your shoots.
Get into the habit of always taking a camera out with you. Walk as much as possible and take time to appreciate what’s around you.