Neal Gruer

I was born in Edinburgh, at a time when Margaret Thatcher was wearing shoulder pads and dancing to In the Groove by Madonna. Many years later, when my brain started to work, I discovered that my mother was from Ghana and my father was from Aberdeen, making me largely Ghanaberdonian. They met in Ireland. They were unusual, but within mere decades, people got over it. Like Wham!, they had an active 80s, sprouting not only me, but also two other human beings (both female). Wake me up before you go go.

My first camera arrived when we still listened to cassette tapes on family holidays in an off-blue Volvo 740 estate – the Beatles' White Album, the Eurythmics, Nat King Cole. It was Kodak, plastic, white and it took pictures.

I did the school thing in Glasgow. They were decent times. I did well, so I was destined for law school or medical school. Science was too arbitrary. I liked talking and writing; making things up and whatnot. So I went back to Edinburgh, this time with a bangin’ afro. I learnt how to be a lawyer. It involved a lot of talking and writing, and a substantial amount of making things up and whatnot.

18 or so years after the Kodak, I bought an SLR. It was digital, Canon, rubbery and functional. I travelled around the world a couple of times, and took photographs of people I didn't know and places I'd never been before. It tickled me like a pig at a belly scratching convention.

Law sucked me up like a hoover. I ended up becoming an actual lawyer, in London of all places. It was less fancy than it sounds; if it sounds fancy at all. It was fun to wear a suit, with ties that matched with my socks, but I wanted more jazz. You know, pulsating drums, huffing saxophones, a blazing brass section. Maybe a twinkling xylophone. Maybe a lead singer with a voice like a sophisticated toad. Definitely a trilby with a feather. Definitely a trilby with a feather.

One thing led to another and I ended up on TV. Master of Photography, they called it: Masterchef, with lenses instead of ladles, light in place of langoustines, Leicas replacing lemon zest. I went further in the competition than I had expected, but less far than I had hoped. A Quarter-Finalist, I missed out on the big-money prize. But I gained wonderful new friends, blossoming expertise, incomparable experiences, my pictures on a wall in a Venetian gallery, and perhaps most thrillingly - my afro-adorned head in a newspaper

My life has been varied, challenging and spectacular, so far. I’ve fallen off things and climbed up things. Seen unresolvable pain and felt irretrievable joy. Seen the power of weakness and the weakness of power. Lost irreplaceable people and gained small, flourishing ones. Swayed myself between irrepressible futility and impassioned necessity. I've gained perspective and I’m grateful. I stopped being a lawyer and started being a writer and photographer all of the time, because that’s who I am. Because I want to do something. To leave a momentous echo or at least echo something momentous. 

These are some of my pictures. There are others on Instagram, @scotch.bonnet (which is also a delicious type of fiery chilli). There are many more pictures that I haven't yet taken; and many more that you will soon see. I'm at the beginning, the end is far. I occasionally write film reviews on Go Don’t Go. I occasionally write other things on These Things of Ours. I write poems and sometimes perform them, although most are poems that no-one sees. I’m writing a novel that I’d like everyone to see. I wear hats. I eat cheese - soft, pungent; French. I am moved by soul music. Sometimes I play the violin. Sometimes I drink whisky. Sometimes I fall in love. I want people to be fulfilled. I smile a lot. I sleep well.

Get in touch here or on Twitter. When you do, something will happen.

© 2017 Neal Gruer. All rights reserved.
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