Macro People

David Gilliver’s entry in this year’s British Photography Awards was a picture of a summer holiday with a difference.

He won the top prize in the Macro category, a branch of photography that takes extreme close-up pictures of small objects, most often insects or flowers.

‘Stay at Home’

But instead David took a picture of the familiar blue face masks that were worn everywhere during Covid and reimagined it as a swimming pool with tiny figurines enjoying vacation activities around it.

“The idea was to approach a serious subject matter with a playful nature without trivialising it,” said the 43-year-old Scottish artist.

It is a way of working that he first came across by accident when he was at Glasgow School of Art in the late 1990s.

Incubation

David said he was looking out of the window of a dentist’s waiting room when he saw a lorry in the street below had tipped over and landed on a car.

He said he knew the situation was serious but from his unique perspective on the fourth floor it reminded him of the scenes he created with his toys as a young boy.

Sweet Tricks

David took a picture of the chaos on the street below, which did not result in serious injury, and when he was back at art school he recreated it using miniature figures.

His professor was impressed.

“Not only was it the first time I had received a strong compliment but I also thoroughly enjoyed doing it,” David said.

“It gave me a new way of looking at things and making my art. From that point on I became obsessed with Macro photography and shooting figurines.”

Life in Plastics

Over the past 20 years he has created thousands of photos of his “little people”, always using humour and playfulness as a way to present a more serious message.

After graduating from art school in 2001, making a living as an artist proved difficult. David ended working in finance in Guernsey for 14 years before returning to Scotland with his wife and baby girl about seven years ago.

In 2018 he took the plunge and became a full-time artist, specialising in Macro photography and light painting.

Vegetarian Kebob

His home in Gartcosh, North Lanarkshire, is full of thousands of figurines – mainly intended for model railway enthusiasts – ready to find a home in his latest work.

David said the pictures had become far broader and more interesting over the years.

“The figurines are static so I am at the mercy of the poses I find them in,” David said.

“It has been my job as an artist to give them something to do within a scene that looks visually interesting.”

Shorthenge

David exhibits his work across Europe and also hosts teaching workshops as well as collaborating with commercial partners.

He said he loved showing people the techniques of Macro photography but there are some things it is difficult to teach.

“The Macro work is 10% reliant on technical knowledge and it is 90% reliant on the imagination,” he said.

Pac Man Scale and Polish

“As an adult making work like this it is important to keep the imagination alive. I have got a young daughter now so it is unavoidable and critical that I do.

“This style of photography very much taps into a childlike way of thinking. The more you do of it, the more you are able to access it. It’s like a muscle almost.”

All images copyright David Gilliver.

Mount Melon

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