Images of Scotland’s slums on show for first time

Shelter commissioned the photos in 1968. Picture: Shelter Scotland/Nick Hedges
Shelter commissioned the photos in 1968. Picture: Shelter Scotland/Nick Hedges
23
Have your say

THEY show the horrific living conditions endured by many of Scotland’s slum dwellers in the 1960s.

Now, almost 50 years after they were taken by a young photographer a collection of photographs documenting the poverty of Scotland’s slums are to be put on show for the first time.

Nick Hedges has lifted a near-50 year restriction allowing the photos to be shown. Picture: Shelter Scotland/Nick Hedges

Nick Hedges has lifted a near-50 year restriction allowing the photos to be shown. Picture: Shelter Scotland/Nick Hedges

Commissioned in 1968 by housing and homelessness charity Shelter, the ‘Make Life Worth Living’ exhibition, featuring photographs by Nick Hedges will be shown in an open air exhibition in Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square from today.

The exhibition comes after the documentary photographer agreed to lift a restriction on the use of the photographs in Scotland. MrHedges had originally limited their use – as many feature young children and their families – in order to protect the subjects.

The photos show families living in filthy, cramped conditions - sometimes without electricity, heating or running water - as well as one family who were woken up in the early hours by demolition ball knocking down their tenement.

Another image shows children playing on swings in a playground by the shipyards in Govan, Glasgow - where Mr Hedges took many of the photos - while another family told him how their one room flat in in Glasgow’s Maryhill was over run with rats.

Mr Hedges said: “The exhibition marks a homecoming for these photographs.

“I was a young man when I took these photos. They shaped my understanding of documentary photography – how images can serve a purpose. In the years which followed, I became committed to photographing the everyday life of people. I never pursued anything more exotic.”

He added: “There is no single picture that I am most proud of in the collection. The people’s words, the stories I heard while I photographed them are just as important. Together they mean more than any single image can.”

Mr Hedges said he had not forgotten the names or faces of any of the people he photographed.

He added: “Whilst in one sense these photographs are a piece of social history, in another sense they serve to remind us that the crisis in housing is as significant today as it was then.

“The insecurity, the ill health and the anxieties that young families, the poor and the elderly face is unfortunately as real now as it was then. It points to our failure as a society to address the basic needs of our fellow citizens.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “These photographs are a sobering piece of history not only for Shelter Scotland, but the nation as a whole. They show us how far we have come in providing safe, secure and affordable housing to the people of Scotland, but also that we must do more for the tens of thousands of families and individuals still desperate for a home to call their own.

“Almost 50 years after these pictures were taken, it is a mark of shame that almost 5,000 children in Scotland will wake up tomorrow homeless, often living in cold, damp and dangerous conditions.”

The free ‘Make Life Worth Living’ exhibition will be on show in St Andrew Square until 30 October.