Documenting the skinhead and rave generations as they grew, photographer Gavin Watson insists “there is no reason or rhyme” to his pictures. And yet they form one of the UK’s finest documentary portfolios of street culture.
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The raw and direct style of Gavin Watson’s photography has not altered with time. See if you can tell the pictures to your right apart, from 1980 to 2012. Starting out as a teenager photographing his friends and their gangs in the 80s, Watson has always said that he is not influenced by anyone nor is he concerned with anything other than the subject he is photographing. It is this uncomplicated, fearless approach that has inspired a generation. Director Shane Meadows based an entire film, This is England, on Gavin’s back catalogue and photographer Terry Richardson described him simply as “a Genius”. Several exhibitions throughout Europe and fashion campaigns for the likes of Dr Martens to his name, i-D online ask Gavin to be direct once again as we talk teenage life and transformation.
Your photographs of the Skins and Punk eras have entered the realm of iconic; they are symbols of style, moments in history. But for you, it was simply taking photos of friends. Are you surprised by how those photos are viewed today? Yes, I find it very interesting that my teenage life has become a symbol. I am still learning how to deal with it.
In no more than four words for each, what is inspiring you now? And what is making you angry now?
Inspiring is: Dad and The.Creative.Process. Technically that’s 4 words so that’ll do.
Making me angry is: My.Idiotic.Ego .Myself.
You have a tick list you work from, what does your current list say? Well one was to work with Ben Drew (Plan B), the second was to work with 3D Projections. I don’t like traditional exhibitions, to hang my work behind glass. It’s about having the ability to be unleashed creatively. I want people to come out of my projects… unsteady.
You’ve said yourself, you’ve been through many transformations as time has gone by – if you were starting everything again, what would you be doing? I would be doing what I was doing, that leads me to do what I am doing now, so I would be doing nothing.
Text: Marcella Karamat
Images from left: Theresea in bath; Cole Mhor, Soho; Nev with Radio, Garden Wall, High Wycombe; Shane Meadows and Thomas Turgoose, South Bank; Alf with beer, Church Yard, High Wycombe; Models in lift, Hackney; Ben Drew, Holland Park; Stoke Newington Vice lad; Griffiths with his own, High Wycombe, 1980.