Search for slum dwellers of 50 years ago

Nick Hedges with his picture of one of the Edinburgh slum families. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Nick Hedges with his picture of one of the Edinburgh slum families. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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A SEARCH has been launched to find the children featured in iconic photographs taken nearly 50 years ago of Scotland’s tenement slums.

The pictures, which depict the lives of families living in cold, damp and often dangerous conditions, were taken by photographer Nick Hedges for housing and homelessness charity Shelter.

Their use was originally restricted to protect the subjects, but a selection of more than 1000 of the images are now on display in an outdoor exhibition in St Andrew Square.

Shelter said many of those in the photographs will now be aged between 50 and 70.

Mr Hedges, said: “It would be wonderful to meet the children I photographed all those years ago and to hear their stories. I often wonder what happened to them, if they went on to lead happy and healthy lives.

“The poverty and terrible conditions I witnessed shocked me to the core. My hope is that all these years later, by reconnecting with some of those I photographed, I am able to hear good news of what happened to the families.”

Mr Hedges was commissioned by Shelter in 1968 and spent three years visiting some of Scotland’s poorest and most deprived areas, documenting housing conditions and quashing the myth that only people on the streets are homeless.

One image shows a young girl sitting barefoot on a bed – behind her the walls are covered in damp. The fireplace in the corner is crumbling, covered in black soot.

Another shows a father cradling his son, the youngster’s bare legs covered in dirt, a large crack in the wall behind them.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, urged anyone who recognised themselves, or family members and friends, to get in touch.

He said: “We want to hear the stories behind these iconic images, and in particular what happened after they were taken.

“These photographs are a sobering piece of history not only for Shelter Scotland, but the nation as a whole and it’s important to preserve the stories behind them. 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.

“Over 45 years after these pictures were taken, it is a mark of shame that almost 5000 children in Scotland will wake up tomorrow homeless.”

The exhibition, which is sponsored by PwC, runs until October 30.