Irvine Welsh writes intro for photography book of Edinburgh taxi project

A CITY cab driver has launched an exhibition and a book ­featuring snaps of passengers he captured from his mobile taxi studio.

Tuesday, 1st August 2017, 10:40 am
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 1:00 pm
Taxi driver Ryan Walls at Out of the Blue Drill Hall, Dalmeny Street. Picture: Neil Hanna

Ryan Walls, 42, has already turned his life around after suffering the crushing blow of redundancy twice in nine months while trying to support a young family.

But the Leith-born former salesman enrolled in taxi training school in 2010 and was soon hitting the road picking up passengers.

And a spurt of creativity in 2015 saw Ryan’s career take another upturn.

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He documented 101 journeys for 16 days during the festival season and 33 of those images can now be seen at Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith until August 5.

The portraits, which Ryan hopes have captured the encounters and stories of those passing through the city, were all shot in the back of his cab. He said only two people refused out of the 103 people he asked – due to being in a hurry, and having a “bad hair day”.

The full set of photographs also been made into a book, titled Edinburgh People, with a foreword by author Irvine Welsh.

Forged through a love of Hibs, Ryan first met the writer on the historic day in 2000 when their team took the glory in a 6-2 defeat of Hearts.

“We have mutual friends and see each other now and again,” Ryan explained.

“I picked him up in the taxi from the BBC studios one day and I told him about the various projects I was working on.

“When I was finished with the project, I sent him the finished file of the book and he wrote this beautiful full-page foreword about Edinburgh and the project.

“Being a dad, husband, working the taxi, doing the exhibition and the book has been so exciting but also quite stressful.

“There have been lots of highs and lows, and getting Irvine’s foreword was a moment of pure happy tears.”

Part of the passage from Welsh reads: “The portraits in this book are also therefore ones of the author: the man on the other side of the lens.

“He’s not visible but is reflected back in the sheer delight on his passengers’ faces.

“The lesson of Edinburgh People is that we are so much more than just ourselves; we’re also everybody else, and the more we give out, the more we get back.”

And Ryan said although using his creative side to create the project has been good for his own personal wellbeing and that of his family, it also shines a light on the city’s “brilliant” taxi trade which is suffering in response to new pressures such as the increase in people using ride-sharing firm Uber instead of traditional black cabs.

“I’ve said it before – Uber is like piracy for the taxi trade. But it’s nice to have a good story to hear,” added Ryan.

And the exhibition will not be the end of the Edinburgh People.

Ryan, who admits he has never been happier, has already compiled another 100 images for a second instalment.

“I know I have to slow down for a while – my wife is expecting our fourth child in October and she’s been so such a trooper I need to give her some well-deserved attention.”