exclusive: watch blondey mccoy grow up in front of alasdair mclellan’s lens
The photographer’s latest limited-edition book, ‘Blondey 15-21,’ is his first to focus on a single subject: the skater, artist, designer, model and more, Blondey McCoy.
Photography Alasdair McLellan
Following the sellout successes of his previous photobooks, Ultimate Clothing Company, Ceremony, and The Palace, Alasdair McLellan’s latest limited-edition, Blondey 15-21, is his first to focus on a single subject: Blondey McCoy. “There are certain people you meet, male or female, who just have a power to them, you can put anything on them and they really carry it off -- Blondey had that,” the Doncaster-born photographer and forever i-D family member explains over email on the eve of the book’s release. Alasdair tells us that he first encountered the power of the then 15-year-old skater from an image taken by one of his then assistants, Finn Andres, who was a fellow Southbank skater and friend of Blondey. “He just had something,” Alasdair adds. “Plus he looked like a young Shaun Ryder.”
Over the course of seven transformative years, this power has been felt throughout the pages of i-D -- including his Alasdair-shot cover for The Street Issue -- and beyond, as we’ve watched Blondey evolve from a shy skater tearaway into a cross-disciplinary creative skater who appears to effortlessly grind between the worlds of art, fashion and anything else that ignites his imagination, in a way that best suits him. Alasdair’s lens, which has always focussed on documenting the shapeshifting sense of self, the British identity, and the beauty, poise and vulnerability of youth, has been there to capture it all.
“It’s a very crucial time in someone's life,” Alasdair explains when we ask him what initially drew him to continue documenting Blondey’s coming-of-age moments. “There’s such a huge change, both in terms of appearance and as a person, in those formative years. And Blondey has been through a lot in those years too. And you can see it I think. He’s gone from Bambi to ennui, you can see it in his eyes,” Jo-Ann Furniss writes in the book’s press notes.
Alongside Nugget, Lucien Clarke and friends, his smiling gold-toothed face has been ever present in the rise of Palace as the brand evolved. He also launched his own streetwear and merch label, Thames. Blondey’s never been content with being a skater, pursuing an art career as well, creating work that manipulates popular culture, chemical imbalance and modern-day religion.
His fifth solo show, 2017’s Us and Chem, explored the relationship between art and therapy. It followed an overdose and Blondey’s subsequent quitting of prescription drugs. Now he’s sober and art remains a therapeutic outlet. “It’s really still the beginning of his life, but he really has become quite fearless, which is very brave for a 21-year-old,” Alasdair says. “In between there has been drunkenness, obnoxiousness, coke bloat, fragility, vulnerability, charm, humorousness, imperiousness, kindness, intelligence, honesty — and sometimes all of the above, all at once,” Jo-Ann adds.
“But I think you can see that a friendship emerged also,” Alasdair says. Over the course of the book’s 176-pages you can see that the relationship goes deeper than that of photographer and muse. Ultimately, it’s a celebration of mates navigating life together, with Alasdair’s lens playing narrator, inviting us into all manner of public and intimate moments. “As a photographer you don’t meet many people and photograph them every year for 7 years,” he adds. “It was never intended to be a book or a project. It just happened really.”
"As I’m sure Alasdair will remember, I spent these seven years wanting nothing more than for them to fly by quicker," Blondey tell us. "Now that I am looking through the book, which in a weird way makes it possible for me to relive those years at the fast forwarded pace I thought I wanted, I can feel just how much your perception of time shifts as you get on. I think you can see that shift in the pictures, particularly by chapter ’21’."
‘Blondey 15-21’ is a strictly numbered edition of 2,000 copies and launches today with IDEA Books. It will soon be available at Ofr, Dashwood Books, Claire de Rouen, Donlon Books, Antenne Books.