Having picked up a camera in his tender teenage years, it was only natural for photographer Gavin Watson to turn it towards what happened all around him; family, friends and heroes. Now, looking back at those days - with the help of 55DSL who's asked him to curate an exhibition of his work - Watson has dug up photographs, some unseen, of his childhood, musicians and other elements of the sub cultural skinhead movement of those days. The name of the exhibition, Neville, is a reference to Watson's brother and his muse at the time. This is another great opportunity to see a well dressed and culturally pivotal fashion and music scene, shot by someone who not only documented it, but also lived it.
Dazed Digital: How did you aim to capture the mood of the 'skins and punks'?
Gavin Watson: The answer to that is I didn't. I was 15 years old and photographing my mates and my brother, it was the subject that surrounded me and just so happened to be on my door step. Skins and Punks was not a subject that I intentionally set out to photograph, it was my life. The images I created were down to me being a fast worker, I kept things very simple using the one camera and film, this is very much the way I still work today.
DD: What do you think is the noticeable red thread running through your photography? If you feel it is a 'style' as such?
Gavin Watson: I don't actually think I have a particular style, well I haven't consciously set out to have one anyway, although I do know other people think I do, they can look at my work and know it's a Gavin Watson. For me its more about looking through the lens and if it looks good I take it, I'm generally just happy when they are in focus (laughs), but to be honest, sometimes it's OK with me if they are a not, they don't always have to be perfect, maybe that's part of my style. As I said I like to keep things very simple, I work with one camera at a time and still use film. I don't like using a zoom lens, I prefer to move around a lot instead, this is the way i worked when i was 15 and i still do now. I do think my pictures have a certain energy within them, they actually look like real people rather that just figures.
DD: How did the influence of your brother affect you as you were growing up?
Gavin Watson: Nev was everything I wasn't; out going, popular, cool and the girls loved him. He was my muse and the most famous unfamous person I have ever known, everyone loved him. He never minded being in front of the camera he was bit of poser as all skinheads are. Back then it was all about the dress up, whether he was a skinhead or a raver he always looked the part and that's kind what made him such a good subject, although I never thought about that at the time, I had to get to my 40's before I realised this. There came a point though for the sake of our relationship, where we both needed some time out to go and do our own thing which is what we did, although Nev continued to be a huge influence in my life - that's what this exhibition 'Neville' is all about and I really hope that comes across.
DD: What are you working on now?
Gavin Watson: At the moment my latest show 'Neville', that's taken up a bit of time delving into the past. The show came about after 55DSL approached me about doing a T-shirt with them, the image I chose to go on the T-shirt came to be the basis of this whole show, which is brilliant. I am also working on a Gavin Watson iphone app which just came out of the blue actually. It's going to have my 50 most iconic images, many of which are unseen, these are going to be there to download for screen savers or whatever. I am also working on a new book of all my music photography from the mid 1980's which a lot of people don't really know much about. It features the likes of Morrissey and Madness and I'm going to be taking some of this imagery to shows around Europe, it's all go! Oh, and I have just been asked to open a new gallery in Oslo, I still wonder why I get asked to do these things, I am just an old skinhead from High Wycombe...
Neville by Gavin Watson is showing at Studio55, 55DSL Flagship Store, 10A Newburgh St, W1F 7R from 4th -21st November. For more information check out 55dsl.com / gavinwatson.co.uk