THE RICHNESS AND THE WRONGNESS OF IT ALL
Messy, absurd, hilarious, and full to the brim with the joy of being alive on a sunny weekend in Shoreditch, these pictures fizz with the throbbing life-force of this peculiar square mile of East London - big black blokes head to pointy toe in gold lamé, a girl squatting in cowboy boots with a plastic pint glass who has the look of someone who’s not quite sure what party she’s at anymore, wasted women who look like the best kind of trouble, and all the while there’s a crashed car upside down in the street while the party gets madder all around it: in short, total fucking chaos, a chaos I’ve never seen so condensed into one square mile anywhere else. I didn’t know people lived like this before I moved to Shoreditch as a young man, and now, all these years later, as somebody who’s much more likely to be walking his dog round the park than stuck five hours into a session come Saturday evening, I still can’t quite believe they do.
As much as the mad night out, Dougie also gets the morning after - specifically, the equally off-kilter, spontaneous street theatre of Brick Lane market. Is the girl striking a pose for a fashion shoot or just for the passers by? What, really, is the difference anyhow? These streets are one big fashion parade anyway. They feel like a slightly demented and off-kilter parallel reality, a pocket of weirdness and colour, the Ditch beyond the Roman wall of the City where all the tat and flotsam Shore up, the no-man’s-land where everything mad and messy collides: roll up, roll up, come and get your plastic pink flamingoes, two for the price of one! There’s lots of pink in these photos, and lots of gold lamé: glamour on the cheap, creating glamour out of nothing, which says a lot about the spirit of Shoreditch.
Dougie’s work is often about mismatches, juxtapositions, chance collisions - the head-on collision of the trendies and the old East End market traders, a car crash of different sensibilities that don’t belong together, an old bloke selling stuff off his stall with a motorbike helmet on, surrounded by stolen bikes and trendy graffiti, pensioners with walking sticks in 90s rave clothes, horrified old Bangladeshi ladies bemused by the rake-thin young chap with the bindi and little Indian dress on at a bus stop.
Ultimately, I think, Shoreditch Wildlife is about the adventure of getting lost in cities, the strangeness of looking at those streets, the kaleidoscope bloom of the flower market, a sensory overload, a world far too complex and full of difference to possibly understand, especially if you’re a bit all over the shop come Sunday morning: for a moment, a poster of a lady in a pimped-up sports car from an r’n’b video shoot miraculously comes to life, and she steps out onto streets strewn with cigarette multi-packs and cardboard boxes, just as it probably seemed to Dougie one bleary-eyed Sunday, all the wrong connections joining up into fantastic, impossible realities, at least for the brief split-second of a photograph.
text by Michael Smith
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