Four years ago I asked myself, “Why does Glasgow, Scotland, have an inherent culture of knife crime that has earned it the title ‘Murder Capital of Europe’?”
The Scottish clan system has existed since pre-Christian times and gives the people of Scotland a sense of identity and shared descent with relatives around the country. The Gaelic word “clann” means “children of the family.”.’
Historically, geographical clan boundaries were fiercely protected and regular disputes were resolved in bloodshed by clan warriors armed with broadswords and daggers known as“dirks” and “sgian dubhs.” This clan way of life has all but disappeared; however, the legacy of resolving disputes between rivals with bladed weapons lives on in Glasgow’s society today.
Fueled by cheap alcohol and drugs, young gangs armed with machetes and lock-back knives have replaced the traditional highland warrior, giving Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, its horrendous “Murder Capital of Europe” title.
From here I began my journey.
As a native Glaswegian who has grown up in this climate, I wanted to draw attention to this phenomenon, which blights my city and ruins lives each and every day. Barbaric, violent crime has become so commonplace that it is almost an accepted way of life, with the prospect of being stabbed seeming inevitable for some young men and women.
I have moved ahead with this project completely independently, producing a strong body of work thatoffers insights into the severity of the problems we face in relation to violent crime. However, the desire to understand the need for violent crime lies far beyond the end results I’ve documented so far. To truly get to grips with the violent society in which we now live, I must expand upon what I’ve done to date, take a closer look at the lives of the families I’ve met and explore the locations where they live and work.
To do this and to capture a truly accurate picture of daily life, I plan to look beyond the violence and into the daily flow amongt these local communities. My goal will be to produce a more balanced representation of the areas where violence has seemingly become so prevalent.
In the process I hope to gain a greater understanding of the complexities of social problems and document a historical record of the way in which we live, breathe and work. I will also record our landscape in more detail as I go.
I believe that the end result will be an extremely strong profile of the modern Scottish clan system, from their waking hour to their dying moments in the “Murder Capital of Europe.”
The Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography will provide me with a financial lifeline, ensuring my ability to continue this project uninterrupted to completion.
David Gillanders’ obsession with photography started in his early teens while he was training as a boxer in Glasgow. He became hypnotized by the black-and-white posters and photographs on the walls of the boxing clubs where he trained and sparred. At the age of 16, when he got fed up with being punched in the head but still loved the atmosphere and characters in the boxing world, he returned to the clubs with a camera and started to take photographs.
In the late 1990s David won a couple local photographic competitions with his black-and-white documentary street scenes of Glasgow life, and on the heels of this success began to secure regular commissions from several of Scotland’s leading broadsheet newspapers and magazines. Through regular photographic commissions, David further developed as a photographer and, beginning in 1999, was able to concentrate on long-term photographic projects.
In 2007 David’s work won Photo Essay of the Year from the Scottish Press Photography Awards and he was a shortlisted finalist in the Arts Foundation Awards. In 2006 a BBC documentary, Black & White, focused on David’s imagery, and he participated in World Press Photo’s Joop Swart Masterclass. He also received the Judges Special Recognition at the Photo of the Year International Award in the World Understanding Category for his project on street kids in Ukraine.
In 2005 he won UNICEF’s Photo of the Year and The Herald Saturday Magazine awarded Best Magazine for Photographs at the UK Picture Editor Awards to David’s photo essay “The Lost Generation,” documenting the lives of street children in the former Soviet Union. The Herald Saturday Magazine had also, in 2003, awarded Best Magazine for Photographs at the UK Picture Editor Awards to David’s photo essay “Russian Roulette,” on issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in Russia.
David lives in Glasgow, Scotland, with his wife Kirsty and two sons, Cameron Jack (age 6) and Brodie Mac (4).
A complete list of his exhibitions can be found at www.davidgillanders.com.