Looking At Edinburgh

27 July 2008

Sleeping with a friend

homeless man with dog

On the whole, I’d always rather just identify where and when I took this photo (sometimes not even that, since I noticed no one ever clicked on the google-maps links I used to provide). If the picture doesn’t speak for itself, what is the point of it?

In this case, though…

I noted on Homeless need shelter that Edinburgh’s housing crisis is a big part of the problem – the invisible homeless, who don’t sleep rough but who don’t have a home to call their own. And then there’s the visible homeless.

I was walking up Middle Meadow Walk, away from an expensive coffee with a friend at Peter’s Yard, and I saw this man asleep: he had been begging, but he’d just dropped off sitting upright and curled over. His dog was asleep too. I stopped and took a photograph, took another one at a different angle, walked on, more and more slowly, and finally turned back, went into the mini-supermarket on the Walk, and bought some bread, cheese, and tomatoes. I had meant to leave the bag with the sleeping man, but by the time I came back he had more or less woken up again: so I handed it to him and walked on. The main reason I didn’t just leave cash was because the man was asleep and I was afraid he might not wake in time if someone saw it and stole it: I hate the sanctimony of “if I give them money they’ll spend it on drink/drugs” – yes, they well might, and if you were in their place, you might too. But also I wanted to do something to make myself feel better about taking a photograph of a person as if he were landscape: buying him food was supposed to do that. At least to make me remember him.

This photo is available on Redbubble: Sleeping with a friend.


  1. i’m glad that you acknowledged how dodgy it was taking somebody’s photograph without their permission. in years to come, this guy could eventually end up as a prime minister or something, and it may not help to have a photograph of him on the internet, sleeping with a dog in the meadows.

    the reason i clicked on this photo was that i suspected it was taken in middle-meadow walk (it does not say outside on the main blog). i’m terrified to find i was right. how could i know from just those cobblestones?

    Comment by tychy — 28 July 2008 @ 10:37 am

  2. i’m glad that you acknowledged how dodgy it was taking somebody’s photograph without their permission.

    It is difficult. I do take photos of people and blog about them – but not often, precisely because I don’t always feel up to trying to work out when it’s morally okay to do so and when not.

    From the angle I took the photo, I don’t think the man would be readily identifiable. I hope not, anyway.

    Those cobblestones are unique! I don’t think anywhere else in Edinburgh has quite that design of grass growing right up to the cobbled gutter, and then the camber of the path.

    Comment by edinburghlook — 28 July 2008 @ 11:15 am

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