Monday, 16 November 2009

Doreen McNally, Chairperson, Women of the Waterfront

I happen to photograph people through all kinds of ways. For instance, it was my hairdresser, Ian, who told me told me to get in touch with Doreen. Whenever he tells me to do something, I do it, except for the time he suggested purple streaks in my hair. Not old enough for that, or the hat, yet. But give it time.

However, I digress. Ian gave me Doreen's number and I called. She had been expecting me and we arranged to meet at her home in Litherland. One Monday morning, I knocked on the door, it opened and the first thing Doreen did was show me the collapsed ceiling in her kitchen. She gave a heated blow by blow description of her battles with the council, and when this was satisfactorily concluded, I learned of the circumstances that led to her fighting for the dockers' rights.

Doreen presented her case with passion and verve, for both the kitchen and the dockers, and I was with her all the way. The wife of one of 500 dockers unfairly sacked in 1995, she fought their cause for two and a half years, and the outcome was victorious. The implications of her vistory were worldwide for never again will any docker anywhere be sacked without notice or compensation. Having met Doreen I can tell you that no other result would have been possible.

I was very careful not to type-cast Doreen for that would have been too easy. I think she was fed up with this as well. I saw her for what she was: a strong woman who was not going to take any nonsense, but also a woman with great compassion and softness, and yes, also a keen sense of humour. And she likes things “nice”, especially her house, in particular her glassware; her passion is not restricted to politics.

When I came back to do the photos, I shot her in the same clothes, with the same hairstyle, and hoped she would present herself in the same way. I think this is a real portrait of Doreen, and I have enjoyed talking to her enormously. She is tremendously intelligent and perceptive, and along the way we even had a few laughs.