This is the first US exhibit of English photographer Giles Edwards’ work. Born in London in 1958, his street and social documentary photography captures the quirkiness and mindset of the English people, and addresses homelessness. These images are juxtaposed with Edwards’ photographs of Britain’s majestic countryside, Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.
Edwards’ education began at St George's School Windsor Castle, the Queen's boarding school for choristers of the castle Chapel Choir, from 1966-1971. He took the test to become an angelic choir boy, but failed. Not a strong academic student, he studied photography at Radley College for one year, spending most of his time in the darkroom at age 18. This was the extent of his formal training in the field.
In life, Edwards has explored numerous career paths. Antiques dealer, “selling bits and bobs to an assorted collection of eccentrics, low lifes and chancers”, a stint in the music industry at Island Records, and training with Peter Newman as a fine art oil painting restorer. Clients included the National Gallery, National Gallery, Greenwich Maritime Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and the Mellon Foundation. “As with the antiques chapter, this was a time spent mixing with the art dealers of London, a fabulous collection of old school charmers, streetwise artful dodgers and, more often than not, an impossibly seductive combination of the two.” From 1986 - 2014 Edwards worked in film and video. He and a partner formed an independent film production company making promotional and corporate films. This culminated in a longterm project in which he produced 60 films to promote higher education in the UK.
“Throughout all these haphazard adventures and assorted shenanigans I have never been far from a camera and I suppose photography has always been my No.1 preoccupation ever since I first got me mitts on a Kodak Instamatic.”
“With regard to the street photography side of things, when I was in my teens I discovered an English photographer called Tony Ray-Jones. He was operating in the 1960’s and very early ’70’s. I absolutely loved his stuff, amazing pics full of humour and kindness.” Ray-Jones described his own work, “My aim is to communicate something of the spirit and the mentality of the English, their habits and their way of life, the ironies that exist in the way they do things, partly through tradition and partly through the nature of their environment and mentality.” Giles’ other influences include Martin Parr, John Gay, Edith Tudor-Hart, Garry Winogrand, and Vivian Maier, and a number of the 1960’s generation of British landscape photographers.
“The way I actually go about shooting in the street is quite simple. Every day that I spend attempting to shoot this stuff starts as early as possible. Summer 5:00am onwards, winter just before sunrise. I randomly select a starting point on the tube map and see what happens. Sometimes things just fall into your lap and on other occasions I will spend perhaps an hour waiting in a location I like for something to happen. Anyway, it involves a lot of walking. I think my longest hike has been just over 20 miles through London in a day. Occasionally, I will shoot at night. The beauty of street shooting is not having any idea at the start of the day of what will unfold. In the early days of this project I used to blast off far too many shots and the results were not noticeably more interesting because of this. Now I am much more frugal in terms of number of shots taken in a day and the percentage of worthwhile stuff seems to have increased. I think I have a result if I have just one image I like from the day. When shooting the ‘down and outs’ I always talk to them before attempting any photography. It’s incredible how positively these overlooked people react even to just being asked their names… It’s quite a controversial issue, this type of snapping, but I’m firmly of the opinion that if you show these people a little respect, it can be justified. I know that a few of the pictures I have taken of ’street people’ and the story behind them have changed the way some of my pals think about this issue. Not saying I’m changing the world, but I think it all helps.”
Edwards’ work hangs in the collection of the Rolling Stones’ London office, and he recently was the photographer at Bill Wyman’s 80th Birthday Gala event in London. He is currently preparing for a January 2017 solo exhibit at the Union Club Gallery in Soho in the West End of London.
Click on any of the slideshow images above to access Giles Edwards' website