It’s probably not unfair to say that Dougie Wallace is a man without fear. Just a cursory glance though the Glaswegian’s ever-growing body of work is enough to convince you that he is either very brave or, at the very least, hell-bent on proving himself to be the most confrontational – and divisive – figure on the contemporary photography scene. Wallace’s style is akin to that of Bruce Gilden. His portraits, many of which are taken right in the subject’s face, are big, bold and, at times, repulsive. He’s something of a street photography highwayman. His method is to jump out with his camera in hand, take the image and do a runner while the subject is still regaining their sight after being near-blinded by Wallace’s flash. While this approach to street photography may not necessarily seem like the most ethical, there can be no denying that it is utterly compulsive viewing. Where Wallace deviates from Gilden is in the almost toxic application of colour (although Gilden has himself experimented with colour). Looking at one of Wallace’s projects can sometimes feel like looking at a particularly colourful comic book that has been thrown into a nuclear reactor. The images are garish and striking.
This latest volume from the self-styled ‘Glasweegee’ finds him once again entering into the human safari and turning his attention to the excessive wealth and consumerism that can be found around the area of London’s Knightsbridge, home to ultra-elite department store Harrods. It’s a fitting marriage. Wallace, aesthetically, is attracted to the excessive. What better subject than the extravagantly affluent? The area and the people are so extravagant they could have caused Liberace to throw off his wig and storm off in a sulk.
Despite the (aggressively) playful nature of Wallace’s work, he is a man with something to say. Wallace’s beef is with, as you may have guessed, the so-called ‘one per cent’, particularly those members of the club who happen to be Middle-Eastern property buyers. Wallace’s anger isn’t class based. It’s community based. As many of us have, Wallace has had to sit back and watch as the rich run roughshod over the capital and turn what used to be affordable and community-focused areas into playgrounds for the elite. Wallace’s project is, at its heart, a rage against injustice. It also happens to be very funny.
A small review can’t really do justice to what Wallace has to say. It’s worth taking yourself over to his website (www.dougiewallace.com) and reading his in-depth explanation for Harrodsburg. And if you don’t feel queasy after reading that, then you’re probably even tougher than Dougie Wallace.
SCORE: 5 out of 5
Published by Dewi Lewis
Price £30, 96 pages, Hardback