John, The Baker // ©Mark Anthony Gillies
Mark Anthony Gillies
The Story behind the Portrait
This image is from my current ongoing project “21st Century Occupations”, an exploration of workers in Glasgow throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. As the effects of the pandemic began to fracture life for all in the UK, I aimed to shoot a project which would purposely serve as a record of this unprecedented time for workers. This led me to start this project which has been extremely rewarding by allowing me to meet and subsequently photograph some incredible people. Throughout the duration of the pandemic, it has been difficult to physically connect with each other, and I believe that fundamentally as humans, we have struggled with this. This series has been my way of taking back control, I have been able to relate with people, share stories and connect again after what has seemd at times a painfully long period in our lives.
After contacting several business owners in the East End of Glasgow, I met John at his bakery in the area. ‘Sweet Janes’ has been busy since opening in March 2020 which was the beginning of major lockdowns due to the pandemic in the UK. Business for the bakery has been difficult during this time and it was only more than a year later that customers were even allowed onto the premises.
This portrait for me was a poignant moment in the fuller series of work – it seems there is an element of angst or vulnerability present in John’s body language, mirroring my personal feelings relative to the pandemic. This may have come from the lack of real human connection we have all faced during the past year or perhaps it is a fear of the unknown in relation to his job and business. With supermarkets mass-producing baked goods daily, is there room for a small business crafting and selling handmade produce? John’s eyes for me tell the story of a hesitant nation, symbolically he represents all of the dismay and fears felt by us all at some point during this time.
In this work, I aimed to include occupations that are part of the fabric of mankind since the forming of modern civilisation, occupations like the baker, butcher and farmer. Although these occupations have developed greatly through modern changes in technology, the core meaning of the work has not altered. These workers embrace automated machinery, incorporating age-old skills and methods to combine both the old and new, providing communities with vital goods.
By looking at these enduring occupations during a time that sometimes felt quite dark, using photography enabled me on several levels to cope. To connect with others, to produce work, and to make some sense of what was happening around me.
John’s eyes for me tell the story of a hesitant nation, symbolically he represents all of the dismay and fears felt by us all at some point during this time.
Mark Gillies is a documentary photographer based in Glasgow, a recent BA Graduate studying Professional Photography at Edinburgh College. Since the beginning of his photographic journey, documentary photography and portraiture have always captured his attention. Whether this was shooting street photography in rainy Glasgow or portraits of strangers, these genres have always excited and challenged Mark.
In his work he strives to document moments faithfully and authentically, seeking to create a genuine collaboration between both photographer and his chosen subject. Creating images is the perfect justification for Mark to meet and interact with new people and reveal their stories.
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