Main article I wrote for #UnDee magazine
Stripping Dundee Down
The Human Element
Dylan Drummond is a Dundee based photographer, filmmaker and co-founder of the Humans of Dundee Facebook page. Dylan defines himself as a content creator who tells stories in a visual medium. He describes each of his films of having both a human and storytelling element. I met up with him to find out all about his thoughts on the humans of Dundee and all the changes that are happening in the city at the moment.
“The Humans of Dundee page is certainly based on the template of Humans of New York,” Dylan explains to me. “I followed Humans of New York for years, the human element in the stories is still attractive to me to this day. For years I personally viewed New York in a distorted manner because of the way that I was digesting news. After the terrorist atrocities, the mainstream media were always running stories about police, military, government, worry, concern, panic. All these negative things. As if New York had fulfilled its destiny as it was portrayed in fictional movies to be a battleground. The Humans of New York stories were the antidote to this. It brought the city back down to the human level again. I began to appreciate that New York was a much more diverse, multi-cultural place and that there is no way a news headline can encapsulate a city and it’s people.”
“There is no way a news headline can encapsulate a city and it’s people.”
Dylan had previously been making community and Dundee based documentaries and films for the last decade. He was also involved in the Dundee city of culture campaign for over a year.
“I made interviews of people endorsing the city of culture bid,” he told me, “I interviewed everyone from taxi drivers to Alex Salmond; there was plenty of Dundonians supporting the bid. From my experience of doing that; I thought Dundee was ready to talk about itself. There really was a sense of the city re-examining it’s worth and what it was capable of. Humans of Dundee which I set up with other co-founder; Tammy Shaw, seemed to be the perfect vehicle to explore that further.”
Above: Some of the many characters that have appeared on Humans of Dundee including SNP MP Chris Law, Local Legend ‘Wee Alfie’ and Hollywood actor Brian Cox.
I asked Dylan if he has any favourite or memorable stories during his time doing the Humans of Dundee page but he told me that he does not have one:
“Every story stands out for its own reason. I remember them all; when it took place, meeting the person, what they were saying. There is such a diverse range of people there from actor Brian Cox to local legend ‘Wee Alfie’. Every kind of story from someone recounting when they had a heart attack to when someone’s baby was born, from people encouraging the wider community to look at their new business to volunteers working in social causes. Each story is like a thread, in a human tapestry of what Dundee is.”
“Each story is like a thread, in a human tapestry of what Dundee is.”
We discuss the changes happening at the moment on Dundee’s waterfront where the new Victoria & Albert museum is currently being built:
“The changes in Dundee are inevitable when you look at some of the hard work that people have put in before,” he tells me.
“There are amazing people working in the social work, youth work and the leisure and community departments who have laid the groundwork for things such as the city of culture bid and the Unesco award we have been given recently. The V&A investment which is part of the overall waterfront development would not have been possible without belief in the first instance.”
“The overall waterfront development would not have been possible without belief.”
Dylan has grown up in Dundee since he was 4 years old and been involved in many community based projects. He has seen a lot of changes happen in the city over the years.
“I believe in cycles,” he explains, “Dundee was down in previous decades, then there was only one place it could go and that was up. Dundee has a great spirit. It went from being a popular, wealthy place to times in its history when it was really poor. Dundee’s ancestors earned a reputation for tearing things down and building things up again. This had a disruptive effect on many people but also built an attitude of being amenable to change. Dundee has responded quickly to today’s needs. Many of the industries from the 80s and 90s have gone but the city as a collective has been able to reinvent itself.”
Above: Dylan doing a photograph shoot at Duncan of Jordanstone Art College
“Dundee’s greatest attribute is its people. I hear again and again how welcoming we are to visitors. We are not just a tolerant society, we are inclusive, we celebrate diversity here. Dundee used to be a port city and I think that’s contributed towards our connectedness to the rest of the world. The Universities are great places for sharing cultures and knowledge, so many international students come here to study.”
“Dundee has it’s problems too, social problems with areas of multiple deprivation, poverty and unemployment. But if anyone can solve the problem, the Dundee people can do it. Dundee’s biggest problem is in the past we put ourselves down so much; we were known as ‘Dumpdee’ or ‘Scumdee’ and we would believe it. Compared to Edinburgh and Glasgow we would think of Dundee as the poor wee cousin. Lately however we have been surprising people and heads have been turning towards Dundee, we are a much more confident city now.”
“Dundee is a place I love. I have been involved in doing many things in the city, promoting it, making films in it, photographing it. Dundee is on a trajectory at the moment. The V&A opening will have an impact, the visitor numbers should increase. The new confidence in the city means there are so many new exciting things that haven’t even come out their embryonic stage yet, they are to be born in these next coming years. If we can keep the waterfront and creative successes going, and they do seem to have a momentum of their own now, and we can marry that with social improvements then we will be laughing.”
“Dundee is on a trajectory at the moment”
I can relate to what Dylan is saying, Dundee people are unique and for such a small city, we have achieved so much. A lot of accomplishments have gone unrecognised in the past so in a way, the changes have been a long time coming. It takes many different kinds of people from all walks of life to make up a city, we must be sure to include everyone to move forward. The current redevelopment means the dawn of a new era for the city where anything is possible. There is something in the air in Dundee that is unstoppable.
Article, photography & illustrations by Naomi McIntosh