Gavin has a terrific website where you can see examples of all his projects discussed here.
“I studied Fine Art for 3 years then left Poly and moved to London. I ended up living in a big squat. Four huge council estates had been left empty and communities of squatters moved in. I soon realised that what was going on outside was more interesting than what I was doing in my studio.
I have always been nosy and I discovered that having a camera gave you permission to knock on people’s doors and find out all about them. I started with the premise that I can show people who have a prejudice against squatters that they are just ordinary people. In 2 years on the Amos Estate no one ever turned me away and I met some fascinating people.
This was a wonderful testing bed. I learnt through trial and error. I got lots of out of date film dirt cheap and so could shoot lots. After getting to know the community we formed a housing co-operative and exhibited the pictures to save the houses from being ripped apart. We felt on a mission as politically active squatters, then it all unravelled and we were evicted. I had spent a lot of time building up a collaborative relationship with my subjects. I wanted the pictures to celebrate who they were. It was fly on the wall and I naively believed in the truth of the lens. I took one picture of the bailiffs arriving at the end. In stark contrast to the rest of the project there was no eye contact. They were the antithesis of what the community was.
What followed was a postscript to the work. I had intended to document and make a case for the community. After the eviction I went back and photographed all the empty flats.” The audience were deeply moved as Gavin felt silent, showing the before and after images comparing the once vibrant homes with the desolation of each empty shell the audience watched decimation of the once vibrant homes.
“For the last one I manipulated the image, dragging the door to echo the bed shape. I became interested in what is constructed, manipulated or not. My work was used by Shelter in its publicity about homelessness. I got work for Shelter and also commissions for building and engineering magazines.
Work “This project of photographing job roles involved playing with stereotypes and prejudices and teasing the viewer. I carried on with this for a few years. These are mundane images on the surface but unseen narratives can be picked out. ”
Discussing the selection for one of these images in an major exhibition, Gavin recalled a disagreement with the position of his picture. “This is a big mistake. Don’t make enemies. If someone is curating a show, let them do it.
I decided early on that I would take on project work for magazines but no commissions for ‘smiley man behind the desk’. This was a conscious choice. I have amended this a bit now but it is important to connect with your work.
When I was going for commissions I found rejection very hard at first. You take your book somewhere and the picture editor flicks through, not looking properly. The more you do it, you learn not to take it personally. You realise that their agenda and yours aren’t matching – it is just business, not a problem. But it took me lot a time to get my head round this. Don’t fear rejection, actively seek it.
Here are 8 useful lessons I learnt by doing the opposite:
1. Always be positive and confident when showing your book.
2. Your portfolio will never be ready. It is always work in progress. Show what you have.
3. Your production values have to be spot on. You must give the message that you respect your work so others will too. Have an obsessive nature about the best prints, even if it is work in progress.
4. Always be polite, never rude, never desperate.
5. Don’t talk too much. They don’t want a narrative.They are visual people and they don’t need your commentary. Have the confidence not to natter.
6. Your portfolio needs to convey a sense of you. It should have some thread or connection. The feeling of the work should be similar so don’t cover too many bases. Don’t show a landscape, a portrait, a documentary photo etc. You must have a robust ownership of your work.
7. Content is not an exact science but generally not too much, not too little and not too diverse.
8. As you show work you will receive feedback and so you will get a sense of what is required." Continued