Peter McConnochie – a.k.a UrbanScott – has been photographing the people of Nottingham for more than a decade, and has dedicated the last two years to his latest project, Faces of Nottingham. We caught up with the Scottish-born photographer to find out more about his latest project, as well as his ongoing obsession with shooting the people who work, live and travel in the city.
Where did your interest in photography start?
I grew up with photography in my family. My father bought me my first camera when I was a teenager, and it has been something I’ve always enjoyed. I love any chance to discover and photograph things of interest wherever I am. I initially started my portraits of strangers when on holiday in France, where I photographed a wine merchant.
When I moved to Nottingham in 2000, I picked up my first digital camera and struggled to figure out what to photograph. Then I realised that there was an endless array of wonderful subjects right outside my front door. I started to head out onto the streets of Nottingham every weekend after work to see who I could meet. The more people I approached, the more confident I became and the more I learned about making images, using light and creating interesting compositions. I started to venture further afield, making street portraits in London, Paris, New York and anywhere I was able to travel to. It became my way of connecting with a place I was in and a way to meet local people.
What is it about an individual that makes you think they’re worth photographing?
I tend to stop people that capture my interest and just ask if I can take a portrait. I never quite know what will interest me on any given day. Sometimes I head out for a few hours and make several portraits, other times I can spend an entire Sunday walking the streets, or several hours standing on Bridlesmith Gate, and shoot one person if I’m lucky. My attention is always grabbed by something different, whether that’s a sense of style in the clothes a person is wearing, the way they’re carrying themselves, or a specific colour, glasses or facial hair. I believe everyone is special, unique and interesting, and for me that instinct changes with each day that I am out on the streets with my camera.
How did you approach the work differently in the knowledge that you were working toward Faces of Nottingham, your first published book?
When I first started working towards the publication, I knew I wanted to take inspiration from my previous street portraits, but also to stay current and almost start afresh for the book. I really took the time to talk to the people I was photographing, finding out about them and their stories, and learning what their relationship with Nottingham was. I hope that comes across in the book. I included a short caption from my discussion with each person that provides a glimpse into their life, or the impact the city has had on them.
I had so many interesting encounters during this project, from hanging out with the coffee roasters and baristas in the city to photographing Instagram influencers, creatives and street performers. The one thing everyone had in common was how wonderful and friendly they all were. It reaffirmed my sense of belonging to Nottingham and the love of the city that has become my home since leaving Scotland many years ago.
How have you kept yourself busy during the past year?
I recently took a short break from street portraits, and during lockdown I photographed the village of Ruddington for a personal project, which you can see on my website. COVID has been really difficult for me as a photographer. I didn’t feel comfortable heading out to meet people on the streets, so I stepped back to focus on personal projects and spend some more time with my family. But I’m desperate to get back on the streets soon – I can’t wait to start making portraits and capturing stories of the people of Nottingham again.