'Homeless in Covid' - Iain McLean
8th April - 15th May
Gallery 103 (Trongate 103)
Download the Homeless in Covid Newspaper
From the Gallery: Saturday 7th May, 3pm - exhibition tour with photographer Iain McLean
'Homeless in Covid' is a collaboration between photographer Iain McLean and Simon Community Scotland which seeks to challenge our pre-conceived ideas of those affected by homelessness.
The project came into being when the photographer started volunteering with Simon Community Scotland at their warehouse in April 2020. Iain wanted to work with a charity during the COVID-19 pandemic and to document the work they were doing. This evolved into a powerful set of photographs depicting some of the people Simon Community work with, as well as documenting important the work the charity do across the city.
By gaining the trust and consent of everyone he photographed the photographer found that his own perception of people who experience homelessness was being challenged – the more people he met, the more it became apparent that anyone could be affected. It was just down to circumstance, with the resulting set of portraits challenging the common perception of what someone experiencing homeless should look like. As well as the portraits, he invited the sitters to hold items which were important to them, with the hand serving as a metaphor for hope and openness, whilst also symbolising the COVID crisis and our heightened awareness of hand cleanliness.
Simon Community Scotland were fairly local to me, and I was already aware of them and the work they do, so I contacted Hugh Hill (Director of Services and Development) and put my idea to him. Happily, he agreed – in my experience it is rare to be given the opportunity to work with an organisation who encourage you to pursue a creative idea. A refreshing experience! I initially did some volunteering in the warehouse – sorting clothes and helping load and unload food deliveries – all the while taking some casual portraits and recording the events. This seemed to go well. We then visited the Ibis Hotel where I met more Simon Community staff and had a look around. Once I’d established some good relationships, I was then given access to other services to meet and photograph both staff and service users. I had never worked with people experiencing homelessness before, but it was a profound and moving experience. My expectations were probably the same as most people’s, namely that I’d be meeting down-at-heel people with substance and/or mental health problems. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve met travellers, religious people, immigrants, refugees, professional people, young and old, all races and genders. Many of them victims of circumstance. - Iain McLean
All Images: © Iain McLean