The photographer Ivar Wigan was born in Scotland in 1979, and was raised in London. He focuses his works on marginal groups of society and the unglamorous tangibility of their poor living. 

Ivar travels a lot and immerses in the surroundings before he starts shooting. For his project “The Gods” he spent two months hiding in plain sight, living as an Atlantan gangster, with an Ethiopian tribe. Taken as a part of a 2013 the project investigates hip-hop communities in the Deep South. The series comprise dancers and hot names in rap. The photographer captures moments of the reality these people are experiencing. “Some of the dancers make up to $5,000 a night,” begins Ivar Wigan, “they have the clothes, the cars, and date the hot names in rap. They respect and envy these girls in their communities. For me, making the series was about being part of it, and showing it from their side and avoiding the politics.”

Ivar Wigan

Ivar Wigan

Ivar Wigan

He named the series “The Gods” in reference to the term for the hustlers who “survived” the streets.  Specifically, destroyed and shabby streets which don’t let anyone in so easily. Young people there don’t have regular jobs and are on the loose, hence, a lot of them end up in prison or dead. Though Ivar’s photographs are about optimism. The people who had lived through many hurdles became admired among the fraternity, now they are the big boys. “A lot of the people I shot – their grandparents had been slaves. When you’re in the south, that’s very recent history,” says Ivar.

The sense of this works is apprehensible — nobody else would plunge you into the particular ambience of the community. He waits till the culture accepts and welcomes him and only then starts taking photos. He aims to render the spirit of a culture, it’s unique energy and force. “I look for scenes of strength and beauty,” he says.

Ivar’s another series “Ghosts” he created on the banks of the Nile in Africa. There he lived with a pastoralist ethnic group, Mursi Tribe, and the nomadic Suris of south Sudan, observing their rituals. As opposed to violent “The Gods” he presents “Ghosts” as honouring 200-year-old traditions.

Ivar Wigan

Ivar Wigan

Ivar Wigan

“This is a portrait done in Jamaica. She is a dancer from Kingston. The picture is called “Chyna”. I’ve been shooting around the dancehall culture that unfolds in the strip clubs along the north coast — Montego Bay, Ocho Rios. I wanted to do a portrait of someone who encapsulated all the fragility of life in the ghetto. She said she was keen to do it. I see something very beautiful but sad as well. Because I know I her, I always hope that she’s doing well and think of her as a person, not just as the subject of a picture. I think it’s a beautiful thing that she’s being captured like that. I hope the picture will last forever,” Wigan said about his portray of a girl in pink.

 

Background and intentions

Ivar has a History of Art and Ancient History degree at the university of Edinburgh. He moved to London in 2000s and started with assisting the sound stage of Shepperton film complex. There he realised that he needed to master image-making as all his favourite filmmakers had photographer’s eyes. “I realised that you can plug away for half a century before you get anywhere in the film industry,” he says. “It was fairly mundane, but I just loved the whole studio system. I worked in all the big studios in London and learnt how to use lighting and all the different cameras. You could always tell Kubrick was a photographer.”

Wigan is seeking for intensity in people in different slums like Jamaica’s north coast where 29% of people are unemployed. “I’ve been going to Jamaica for about ten years, and it’s quite a rough place when you’re out in the inner city communities,” he says. “But I go up to people who have really got something, and show them samples of my work on my phone.” Mostly they instantly understand what is Ivar about and want to engage in his works.

Ivar Wigan

Ivar Wigan

Ivar Wigan

The hyper-real colour contrasts make his works look absolutely adorable. The fact that each shot has it’s history and some purpose appeals. Like, it’s not a prostitute walking by a random blue Cadillac as one might think. Namely, it’s a studying nurse which keeps up with the local fashion, on her way to clubbing. And the Cadillac is a friend of Ivar’s and is the only thing of his which survived the Katrina Hurricane. Ivar believes it’s important to set the context and the history of the people he is documenting.

Ivar Wigan

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