Following a recent refurbishment of The Cameo’s canopy, we thought it would be the perfect time to go for a visual walk with Diarmid Mogg, who has been taking photographs of the historic cinema for nearly ten years.
I started taking photographs of The Cameo back in 2006, not long after I got my first digital camera, when I was walking around taking millions of pictures of just about anything I happened to see.
The Cameo was an obvious subject, not only because I’ve enjoyed seeing films there, but also because I’ve always been enchanted by the way it looks from the street at night.
In the dark, wet nights that Edinburgh specialises in, the sight of The Cameo’s foyer shining warmly at the base of the big, old Tollcross tenement that looms above it is one of my favourite views in the city. Everything in the scene is normal, even mundane – shops closed for the day, taxis whizzing by, people walking past – apart from that brightly lit little space under the canopy, glowing like some sort of magical portal to a place where you’re going to have a much better time than you would if you didn’t go through it.
The problem I’ve always found is that it’s actually pretty hard to capture that quality in a photograph. In any picture I’ve taken of The Cameo in its night-time streetscape, the cinema itself is hard to make out amongst the clutter of headlights, streetlamps and other competing details. The only way I’ve been able to get close to conveying the feeling of specialness I get from The Cameo at night is by going in close, keeping a little bit of the canopy and just enough of the paving stones in the frame to suggest the street outside, and snapping picture after picture until the people moving around coalesce into a satisfying composition.
That said, the purpose of each individual photograph is only to add to the hopefully overwhelming effect of the series as a whole, as the viewer observes picture after picture, reading the titles of countless films and seeing hundreds of cinemagoers come and go, year after year. The films constantly change; the people are never the same; the walls, ceilings and fixtures are renovated and replaced. But the special feeling that you get on a dark night in Home Street when you see before you the wide open Cameo foyer – that happy, welcoming and bright space – is always there.
You can see all of Diarmid’s canopy photographs on Flickr