Brash, bold and vibrant, Dougie Wallace’s photography isn’t to everybody’s tastes – but it certainly gets people talking. Amy Davies explores his new book
You almost can’t fail to find something of interest if you head off, camera in hand, to the vibrant areas of London’s Brick Lane and Shoreditch. It’s with good reason that it’s become a favoured destination of street photographers, who come from all over to snap the plethora of characters you’ll find on its graffiti-laden alleys and roads.
Dougie Wallace, sometimes called ‘Glasweegee’, is known for his unashamedly bright, close-up, flash-filled frames that seek no permission, offer no apology and exposes the scenes in front of him with a warts-and-all approach for a heightened sense of reality that can sometimes be hard to take in.
Chances are you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it – you might have already made your own mind up from the images displayed here. Personally, I found myself wanting to dislike the work for its brashness, but being increasingly drawn in as the book went on. Sensitive and subdued, this isn’t, but nobody can accuse of it being ordinary or pedestrian.
Throughout the book there’s very little offered in the way of context. With no captions, you’ll have to invent your own narrative as to exactly what each image portrays, while street signs appear in some to give you a geographical clue.
Wallace has spent the past 20 years photographing East London, bearing witness to increasing gentrification in the area. Yet, within these pages, you’ll still find evidence of little pockets of defiance – the cheeky protests, climate change resistance and the people who arrived long before the likes of Gucci turned up with their Instagram-friendly murals to attract the rich kids and hipsters.
At the end of the book you’ll find an essay by Paul Lowe, which gives you some background into the history of the area. At the end of the piece, Lowe describes Wallace as ‘our modern Hogarth’. The 18th-century English painter and printmaker was well known for his satirical cartoons – which gives you an idea, perhaps, of Wallace’s underlying intentions when he sets out to create his images.
This isn’t a book that is as easy to universally recommend as some that pass through the AP offices, but it’s certainly one that stands out. If you like your street photography with a side order of subtle, this isn’t for you, but if you like it in your face it’s worth a look.
East Ended by Dougie Wallace
Publisher Dewi Lewis Publishing