Photographer aims to capture spirit of Leith

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An amateur photographer has set about capturing a unique snapshot of one Edinburgh’s most characterful areas in a series of black and white portraits of Leith locals.

John Harfield, 30, from the New Town and an ex-Balfour Street resident, decided to embark on his camera-toting odyssey last month and has already snapped more than 100 of Leith’s everyday residents.

Mystery female with cigarette

Mystery female with cigarette

And what began as a lunchtime pastime for the digital designer has grown into an all-encompassing documentary project with a stated ambition to photograph “every shop owner on the Walk”.

Leith locals have also remained true to form and as word spreads through the area he has been receiving a flood of e-mails and phone calls from residents asking for him to come and photograph them.

He said: “It really has taken off in a big way. I used to live in Leith and was always fascinated by its many interesting characters.

“At first it was something fun to do on my lunch break but now it’s grown into something much bigger. I’ve been truly amazed by the people I’ve met on Leith Walk.

Borland's Darts and Television

Borland's Darts and Television

“Quite often the most intimidating looking characters have been the friendliest and vice versa. I’ve encountered folk from all walks of life, and heard fascinating tales about the area. One thing I have found out, all Leith Walkers are proud to be there.”

John has set up an online blog, Leith Walkers, to showcase his pictures and has two exhibitions planned for next year, at Woodland Creatures on Leith Walk in March and at the Leith Late festival in June.

Borland’s Darts and television

John said: “Only on Leith Walk would you find a shop that specialises in darts and televisions. It has been on Leith Walk since 1925. The deal was, if I took his photo, I had to help a customer choose which darts she was throwing best. That’s the best thing about Leith and Leith Walk – nobody bats an eyelid at this strange but unique shop.”

Robbie’s regular

John said: “I walked past this man having a cigarette outside Robbie’s Bar at lunch time. A lovely guy with a great smile. I’ve discovered through this project that some of the most intimidating characters are actually the warmest and welcoming people. It goes to show you should never judge a book by its cover really.”

Russ McCulloch hairdressers

John said: “Russ has five dogs in his hairdresser which I thought was a pretty unique thing that you would only find on Leith Walk. I saw him walking down the street with his dogs and ran after him into his hairdresser shop.”

Leith Walk Barber Salon

John said: “Owned by well-known local businessman Keith Hales, this barber shop was established in 1880 and is one of the oldest barbers in the country. Keith is vice chair for the LBA (Leith Business Association) and we had a lengthy chat about methods to improve Leith Walk.”

VaporiZed Electronic cigarettes specialist

John said: “The subject’s name is Iain. It’s a great shop with lots of interesting characters going in and out. One of my favourite photos. Iain is a great guy and was very enthusiastic about the project, and has used the photo for his Facebook profile.”

Mystery female with cigarette

John said: “I met her at a bus stop on Leith Walk and interrupted her as she was mid-cigarette. She said she loved Leith and black-and-white photography which is obviously perfect for this project. I’m always amazed by how open most people are to me just walking up and asking to take their photograph. I’ve had my share of knockbacks but they’re far outweighed by those who encourage me to just snap away. One day a man saw me with my camera and said ‘do ya wanna see ma tattoos?’ and threw his old leather jacket on the floor. I just love the area, the shops, the people, the pubs, the culture, the stories, the drama, the laughter, the hardship, the community. . . everything.”

Central Bar “Cronie” Jacky

John said: “I got an e-mail from a girl saying I should go to The Central Bar at midday on a Monday and meet her dad and his ‘cronies’ who always drink there at that time. This is one of his cronies, Jacky. They had no idea I was coming, but they were a cracking bunch of characters who were more than happy to get involved.”