I graduated in 1996 with an Honours Degree in Psychology with Politics, writing my final thesis on the wars in the Former Yugoslavia. I became obsessed (in a healthy way) with all things Balkan and spent the rest of the year volunteering in a small social reconstruction project in Pakrac; a small war torn town in Croatia. The war was over but the town remained divided and was ninety per cent destroyed. It was here that I first picked up a camera to document my surroundings.
The following year in 1997 I continued volunteering in Sarajevo. This time I set up a makeshift darkroom, using donated photography equipment, and ran a small photo class in the basement of the city’s main orphanage. I taught children, aged six to sixteen, basic photography techniques – shooting with 35mm SLR film cameras, developing their films and printing their photographs. The focus was all on the project and the kids’ photographs. My own photography career would start later, but my time in the Balkans was my baptism in so many ways.
In 2000 I began working as a Visual Communications Manager for an international charity and was sent on frequent photo and story gathering assignments across Africa and Eastern Europe. An introduction to a portable Sony Handy Cam began the process of moving from still image to moving image – the ability to capture sounds and actuality for campaigning and marketing films took hold. I then began creating short documentary films for the NGO – documenting issues such as the HIV/AIDS crisis in Sub Saharan Africa in the early 2000s and the closure of state orphanages across Eastern Europe.
In 2006 I went freelance as a documentary photographer and filmmaker and continued travelling across the world for various NGOs. In 2008 after years of angst about being ‘self taught’ in photography I undertook an MA in Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication, graduating with Distinction in 2010. As part of my Masters’ final project I began documenting my home city of Glasgow, photographing and filming stories from those living on the frontline of demolition and regeneration. This would culminate in my long term project, book and films – Disappearing Glasgow(Freight). The photo-book sold out of two editions and the photography and multimedia work was exhibited in Glasgow, Paris and London.
In 2014 my first feature length directorial debut – Finding Family– won two BAFTA Scotland Awards and was premiered to a sold-out audience at the Sarajevo Film Festival, and then screened at the BHFF in New York and the GFT in Glasgow. The film was then acquired and broadcast by Aljazeera.
In 2019 I am now running my own corporate film production company – CL Productions – producing, directing and editing short films for a range of clients from Tennent’s Lager to British Red Cross. My photography work on long-term documentary projects continues, with regular photo essays and commissions in The Guardian. Barrowland BalIads– a collaborative arts project/book of photography, graphics and essays will be published this summer (Graphical House).
For 2020 and beyond I am currently working on a new book and exhibition project in Moscow, documenting the largest regeneration in modern day history and also working on directing a documentary seriesfor the BBC. I will be returning to Sarajevo for an exhibition of photographs from my 1997 children’s photo project, exhibiting their photographs in the city for the first time, as well as my portraits of the students twenty years on. Coming full circle and returning to the Balkans once more.