An off-duty cop sits in a patrol car, parked with the engine turned off, outside of a nightclub in the Twin Cities. This isn’t his first stake-out though, it’s not his first time sitting alone in the dark looking out at the night and into himself. Because he’s sat in this very spot, off and on, for the last 17 years. 


The dull sounds of music from inside, filtered as they are through the slipstreams of passing traffic, are barely audible to him now, after all these years. He looks up, his face now illuminated in the orange glow of the street lights, to glance back through his rearview mirror, not at where all those years have gone, but at a figure walking by and into the distance. Just as a voice on the radio scanner calls out a code 10-17. 


He’s earning some extra cash, while off-duty, by running security for the nightclub. Sitting out there, protecting and serving, and keeping everyone safe inside that world known as the Paradise Lounge. Here desperate punters look around furtively to find someone to hold tight onto, as the last dance quickly approaches. In this version of paradise, another man is also running security, and just like the off-duty cop outside, he’s also just trying to earn a little extra cash. 


While he waits for the clock to tick down for his shift to end so that he can be set free and claim those unsold nachos in the restaurant kitchen, he helps the bar staff out. Meandering through sweaty gyrating bodies, with sharp elbows thrusting out at oblique angles, assorted tables and pulled out chairs left in his path, to collect empty glasses wherever he sees them. Glasses left behind by those who have already gone home, or those still hanging on to the sad bitter end, attempting their sad attempts at a mating ritual on the dance floor


But that’s why they like him here, the other staff, as he’s always there to give a hand and to help out; he’s just that type of guy.


So, yes, it’s just another night in Paradise, here at least, on “urban'' music night, at El Nuevo Rodeo, for these two employees. 


Just another Tuesday night for two men running security on East Lake Street, Minneapolis. Two blocks up from the police station.


Just another night for these two men in a life full of so many others.


365 days later, and 1,815 km away from East Lake Street, a woman is coughing in the night, down in the communal area for the condo dwellers, which my apartment overlooks. She is coughing her guts up amidst the sounds of drunken revelry, carousing and laughter from her fellow ‘condo-aires’. 


She tries to laugh it off at first, her coughing fit, trying to turn it into a joke, but it continues nonetheless, and as it does, the sound of the carousing subsides. Perhaps thoughts of Covid-19 begin to arise in the minds of her fellow revellers? But then there is only the sound of her coughing left before the night consumes it all. 


As I lay on my back in the darkness and the heat of my Tuesday night, laying there on top of the bed covers, waiting to clock off my shift and find the sleep which has already found my wife. At that moment a gust of cool air rolls over me, from the cheap plastic Facto fan, and I think about England momentarily and wonder if I will ever see my dad again. 


Then, strangely, I began to see the woman who was coughing outside. I see her pained red face, and the mild panic growing there, her auburn hair down to her shoulders, falling forwards as she drops, and I see someone rush out with a glass of water and thrust it into her hand. 


I see it all.


But only in my mind’s eye, of course, and then sleep finds me, and my shift is over.


I haven’t taken many photographs lately. I’ve taken some though, feeding them into my hard drive after I do.  I always catalogue them, before giving each a cursory glance. Zooming in to check their sharpness and then leaving them there nothing else done to them. At times I feel satisfied that one image works with another but that’s all I feel.


In the early days of the pandemic I began to photograph the faint, tiny fissures which meandered up and down some of the adjoining walls of the apartment. Buildings here are beset, by the way, by the perennial contractions and swellings brought on by the extremes of weather. Extremes, which range from minus 30 degrees centigrade in the winter to 30 degrees centigrade in the summer. 


Sometimes I wonder how buildings here just don’t simply fall down under the strain. Under the constant battles of this hostile environment that never seems to change.


I haven’t left the apartment for awhile, incidentally. Well, for at least a week. I tell myself that it’s too hot to go out right now. Well, it was 37 degrees centigrades yesterday, with a humidity factor of 45 degrees. But in truth, I worry about the world outside, that place beyond the control I have within my four walls. I worry about the virus, and the crazy people who seem to have forgotten about it, and I worry about the cops out there with guns speaking a language that I don’t fully understand.


I worry about getting back to the UK and about the flight that I will soon have to take. All in all, I worry about my own faint, tiny fissures. Those tiny cracks that widen with each day of this pandemic, where the world seems to be wonderful one day and then terrible the next. While I worry about where the next gig is coming from but enjoy the time to myself to do things that I haven’t had the chance to do before. Like taking French class online. Note to reader: French classes go by so much quicker when you put whiskey into your cup, and pretend that you’re sipping coffee instead during the lesson. 


In next week’s episode of “Wino Tips” we’ll discuss pretending to look sober during Zoom meetings


My dad rang me last week to tell me that his friend, for over much of his life, had died. I’m not exactly sure if they actually really liked each other to be honest, as this ‘friend’ was a complicated man. Even as a child I could see this. He was a big man who was encased within a prickly static charge. He was a big bully one who made others shrink when he walked into the room, me too at times, and yet the laws of nature had given him a magnetic draw that pulled people to him - to become jesters in his court of disapproval. No wonder that, over the course of my life, he was often at the centre of so many of my dad’s stories.


This friend once asked someone, who was on their deathbed in hospital, with only a few days to live, what he was going to do with the new sheepskin jacket he’d recently purchased.  


He then proceeded to ask said dying man what he was going to do with his van.


Hey, I never said they were good stories.


Anyway, it’s strange how some deaths tear us apart while others barely graze us. Isn’t it? I knew my dad’s friend all of my life and yet, well, my life went on, as his ended. Even when I imagined his children and his grandchildren grieving his loss - whom I know - no tears came.


Yet, since May 25th I’ve been marked by the death of a total stranger.


I once cried, for example, when reading a story in the local newspaper in my hometown of Dudley, of a child being run over and killed by a car, just a few yards away from their home and their mother who was waiting patiently for them to return. Yet I can hardly find it within myself to raise an eyebrow, when a fully laden passenger plane crashes - even though I know that there must have been children aboard. 


If, for example, I was on a sinking ship, and was told by the crew that it was woman and children first allowed onto the lifeboats, I would have no hesitation of jumping to the head of the children’s queue fully prepared to tell any crew member that I was a 10-year-old child suffering from a strange accelerating ageing disease called Middle-Aged-Man-itis.


So, in hindsight, I didn’t cry just because it was a child in that story. Perhaps it was down to how that story was told, the ability and skill of the narrator to put information in a sequence that humanised the central protagonist of the event, and their skill to draw me in? That is what enabled me to project myself into that narrative so that they could move me emotionally? Because grieving is always a selfish act, one which is always more about how we are going to feel in their passing, rather than their actual passing. 


Maybe it’s all of this?


Yet, I grieved for this stranger. 


On May 25th the world would see that off-duty cop, who ran security, the one who sat outside of the nightclub in the Twin Cities, murdering the man who ran security inside. The same man who counted down the minutes to the end of his shift while collecting glasses. The world and I would watch this man being murdered, in video shot by 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, over the course of 8 minutes and 46 seconds - even if I could watch for only 2 or 3 of those seconds. 


Nonetheless, my world would be changed forever.


Over the last few weeks, since George Floyd was murdered, the sight off all-white curatorial teams in art galleries and museums, posting their Black Squares on Instagram (squares found from typing ‘Pantone Black’ in Google image search followed by right, click, save) often in league with white writers on photography, and all-white staffed photography departments in art schools, who sometimes perform the roles of speakers on all-white panels as well as on all-white competition juries - all falling over themselves to call for photography to be decolonised and to become more inclusive.


Throwing out messages like this one:


“XXXXXXXXX recognises that the arts have a problem with diversity and inclusion. We acknowledge our culpability and the need to do more in dismantling wider structural inequalities within society and the industry. 


We are committed to addressing the issues of inequality in the representation of, and opportunities available to, under-represented 

voices within the visual arts. 


Over the coming weeks we will regroup and discuss how we can and will do better. We have a responsibility to reflect the world we live in. We believe photography can be a powerful tool for positive change and now is the time for that change. 


We are listening and learning. We welcome healthy contributions and conversations on how we can improve. 


Contact info@XXXXXXXXXX”


So, let’s get this straight, you recognise that you have deliberately chosen not to give any opportunities to Black photographers when you clearly could of, yet you now want me to get in touch with you to tell you how you can improve on this and not actually be a cog in a structurally racist wheel - which you kind of admitted that you were? 


That's some crazy shit right there!


Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: LAUGH TRACK #1



Anyway, moving on, I, like so many other Black photographers, have found themselves thrust into a position where they have seen their works shared and highlighted online from an assortment of people via some perceived sense of guilt by the aforementioned poster. “Blackout Tuesday” was a day like no other where white strangers on Instagram - who in the past would not even have paid any attention to me if I was on fire while driving an Uber they were the passenger in - tagged me into stories, many of which, invariably contained the line “Black photographers to look out for”. 


Who actually were they asking to 'lookout 'for it, I wondered? 


Many of them weren’t even photographers and had no affiliations with any industry professionals that could actually help. Whilst I’m sure some meant well, in most cases, it was difficult to not see through the very public and performative virtue-signalling many made as they played to the gallery. Especially when two weeks later they unfollowed me.


But, how am I supposed to feel if it takes a man, a complete stranger whom I never even knew existed, to be murdered, before they can see that I exist? 


How am I supposed to feel when I see all-white led organisations saying that they support my struggle and my cause and that they will ‘do better’? When everything about their structure and their track record proves otherwise?


How am I supposed to feel in the knowledge that it has taken such a horrendous murder for them to be roused into even considering pulling out a chair and giving someone who looks like me a seat at the table?


I can tell you how I feel; I feel at a loss and so I grieve.


I grieve not only because I know that I am George Floyd. That the same reasons which led to his death could lead to my own just as easily. I grieve because the entirety of my life has been lived continually attempting to justify my humanity to people who it appears will only consider it when the life of someone who looks like me is taken away. 


But I grieve, foremost, because I know that I have benefited from this man’s demise and that his death has, if only in the short term at least, helped make my own life better.




Sometimes in the night, in that moment before sleep finds me, I wonder how I don’t just simply fall down under the mental strain some days. Under the constant battles of the hostile environment in which I live, which seem never to change, the same environment which never seems to want to acknowledge my humanity. 


That man-made hostile environment that instead leaves my humanity always open to question, as I wait patiently for a call to find my seat at the table that never comes.



In memory of George Perry Floyd Jr. 

October 14, 1973 – May 25, 2020


CreateSpace is a Creative Health CIC project in partnership with Arts Council England, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Staffordshire County Council.