Tommy Ga-Ken Wan



Tommy, 27, Glasgow. Photographer working internationally in theatre, opera, film sets and whatever else comes my way. Resident judge on The Big Shot (Channel 5, Singapore).

"Ga-Ken Wan follows his own fascinations and doesn't flinch from the challenges...photographs which capture something of the modern urban experience." - The Scotsman

"His eye has a way of alchemizing every social encounter into something at once synaptic and fresh, yet cool and composed... the hipper, headier, film-version of our lives." - Lock Up Your Daughters


It was the 31st of March 2000: the night when I first admitted to myself that I am gay. I consider the moment to have been the end of my childhood and the premature beginning of my adult life. I was fourteen. Of course I had known in some dark corner of my soul for years before that, drawn as I was - inexplicably and shamefully - to the faces of other boys at primary school, and to the headless torsos in the men’s underwear section of Mum’s Kay’s catalogue. But to allow the words to formulate in my mind and then to say them out loud was a revelation which I have described before as being like a door opening to a huge area of my being that I didn’t realise existed. 
I’m reminiscing on this moment in my life because, last night, I went to see Pride at the cinema. In some ways it flouts predictability and convention and, in others, it’s every bit the uplifting, inspiring and slightly cheesy film the trailer suggests it is. I was no less moved during these more predictable moments, though, because they captured - more than any other dramatisation I’ve seen - what life was really like for a young gay man in late twentieth century, working-middle class Britain. I saw it with a friend who is older than me, whose time was closer to the 1980s in which the film is set, but there were so many moments where we gasped, grabbed one another’s arms, laughed and - in my case - cried (a lot) at a shared awareness of how *true* the film is, how scenes and even lines of dialogue from my own life were being shown to me in drama.
I cried at remembering my own struggles. Although I consider myself very - perhaps even too - self aware, I am sure there is so much psychic shit in my subconscious from that period in my life that still needs to be worked through. I cried for the sadness and joy of the characters in the film, uniformly well-rounded and marvellously-acted. But I think I cried most of all for knowing that I was in a cinema occupied mostly by straight people, and most of them much older than me, who had no idea what people like me went through: the terrible shame and loneliness we felt (although this film is uplifting in its portrayal of people who found others like them), the cruel ways in which we were tormented. And, as I watched, I thought “Now you know. I hope you understand that now.” 
Pride, the title of the film, is perfect. I left the cinema feeling proud. I have always said that it’s foolish to be proud of something which is merely an accident of birth, and so I won’t say I’m proud of being gay. But I’m proud of overcoming the obstacles I had to overcome in order to say that I’m gay, both to myself and to everyone I know. William Butler Yeats said that it takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on the battlefield. I believe this to be true and, though many dark corners remain unexamined - I’m sure that work never ends - I feel a great sense of achievement, I feel blessed, to have examined the big dark corner of my sexuality when I was fourteen. 
I know, because I’ve seen it, how much has changed, how much easier it is for a gay teenager to come out now than it was fifteen years ago, and I’m heartened by that. But it’s still not easy, and I think this film will help. I encourage everybody to see it, because it is a shining and wonderful example of what, in my opinion, art is for: to allow us to stand in another person’s shoes and to walk around in them. As Atticus Finch tells us in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, that’s when you’ll really know them.
Glasgow, 2014. View Larger

It was the 31st of March 2000: the night when I first admitted to myself that I am gay. I consider the moment to have been the end of my childhood and the premature beginning of my adult life. I was fourteen. Of course I had known in some dark corner of my soul for years before that, drawn as I was - inexplicably and shamefully - to the faces of other boys at primary school, and to the headless torsos in the men’s underwear section of Mum’s Kay’s catalogue. But to allow the words to formulate in my mind and then to say them out loud was a revelation which I have described before as being like a door opening to a huge area of my being that I didn’t realise existed. 

I’m reminiscing on this moment in my life because, last night, I went to see Pride at the cinema. In some ways it flouts predictability and convention and, in others, it’s every bit the uplifting, inspiring and slightly cheesy film the trailer suggests it is. I was no less moved during these more predictable moments, though, because they captured - more than any other dramatisation I’ve seen - what life was really like for a young gay man in late twentieth century, working-middle class Britain. I saw it with a friend who is older than me, whose time was closer to the 1980s in which the film is set, but there were so many moments where we gasped, grabbed one another’s arms, laughed and - in my case - cried (a lot) at a shared awareness of how *true* the film is, how scenes and even lines of dialogue from my own life were being shown to me in drama.

I cried at remembering my own struggles. Although I consider myself very - perhaps even too - self aware, I am sure there is so much psychic shit in my subconscious from that period in my life that still needs to be worked through. I cried for the sadness and joy of the characters in the film, uniformly well-rounded and marvellously-acted. But I think I cried most of all for knowing that I was in a cinema occupied mostly by straight people, and most of them much older than me, who had no idea what people like me went through: the terrible shame and loneliness we felt (although this film is uplifting in its portrayal of people who found others like them), the cruel ways in which we were tormented. And, as I watched, I thought “Now you know. I hope you understand that now.” 

Pride, the title of the film, is perfect. I left the cinema feeling proud. I have always said that it’s foolish to be proud of something which is merely an accident of birth, and so I won’t say I’m proud of being gay. But I’m proud of overcoming the obstacles I had to overcome in order to say that I’m gay, both to myself and to everyone I know. William Butler Yeats said that it takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on the battlefield. I believe this to be true and, though many dark corners remain unexamined - I’m sure that work never ends - I feel a great sense of achievement, I feel blessed, to have examined the big dark corner of my sexuality when I was fourteen. 

I know, because I’ve seen it, how much has changed, how much easier it is for a gay teenager to come out now than it was fifteen years ago, and I’m heartened by that. But it’s still not easy, and I think this film will help. I encourage everybody to see it, because it is a shining and wonderful example of what, in my opinion, art is for: to allow us to stand in another person’s shoes and to walk around in them. As Atticus Finch tells us in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, that’s when you’ll really know them.

Glasgow, 2014.



On the eve of Scotland’s independence referendum, Yes supporters rallied in George Square to listen to speakers and live music. But it was at the other side of the square, in front of Glasgow’s City Chambers, where the real interest of the evening lay for me: a group of our Catalan brothers and sisters arranged rows of coloured candles to show the Catalan and Scottish flags side by side. When the arrangement was fully lit, the gathered crowd cheered and began to chant “Sí! sí! sí! Yes! Yes! Yes!” A piper stepped into the middle of the square and began to play. It was without doubt one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I was tearful, and it was so powerful an experience that I left shortly afterwards, unable to take any more. What a privilege. What a special time to be alive in this country. View Larger

On the eve of Scotland’s independence referendum, Yes supporters rallied in George Square to listen to speakers and live music. But it was at the other side of the square, in front of Glasgow’s City Chambers, where the real interest of the evening lay for me: a group of our Catalan brothers and sisters arranged rows of coloured candles to show the Catalan and Scottish flags side by side. When the arrangement was fully lit, the gathered crowd cheered and began to chant “Sí! sí! sí! Yes! Yes! Yes!” A piper stepped into the middle of the square and began to play. It was without doubt one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I was tearful, and it was so powerful an experience that I left shortly afterwards, unable to take any more. 

What a privilege. What a special time to be alive in this country.



Last evening, in George Square, Channel 4 News’s economics editor Paul Mason gives his analysis of the situation here in Glasgow. 
The atmosphere in Scotland has been electrifying in recent months: politics is being talked about at every bar, every dinner party, damn near every street corner and, for the first time in my life, there is something like an informed electorate on this island. The people have tasted something of the power they deserve, and we know what it’s like to have hope again. I believe that when I cast my vote tomorrow it will be one of the most important things I’ve ever done, and I’ll be voting YES, but I’m going to be in tears whichever way it goes.
My main reasons for voting yes are explained with more intelligence and flair than I have in this article: http://www.monbiot.com/2014/09/02/someone-elses-story/
For the economic facts to support my decision, see this article: http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/09/16/a-risk-assessment-for-future-of-the-uk/
However you vote tomorrow, please do your research, and arrive at your decision through thought and analysis. 
Change is coming. Hope over fear.
Glasgow, 2014. View Larger

Last evening, in George Square, Channel 4 News’s economics editor Paul Mason gives his analysis of the situation here in Glasgow. 

The atmosphere in Scotland has been electrifying in recent months: politics is being talked about at every bar, every dinner party, damn near every street corner and, for the first time in my life, there is something like an informed electorate on this island. The people have tasted something of the power they deserve, and we know what it’s like to have hope again. I believe that when I cast my vote tomorrow it will be one of the most important things I’ve ever done, and I’ll be voting YES, but I’m going to be in tears whichever way it goes.

My main reasons for voting yes are explained with more intelligence and flair than I have in this article: http://www.monbiot.com/2014/09/02/someone-elses-story/

For the economic facts to support my decision, see this article: http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/09/16/a-risk-assessment-for-future-of-the-uk/

However you vote tomorrow, please do your research, and arrive at your decision through thought and analysis. 

Change is coming. Hope over fear.

Glasgow, 2014.



A still from Scottish Ensemble’s phenomenal concert ‘20th Century Perspectives: City Spaces and Strings’ which was staged in a disused part of the modernist landmark The Anderston Centre. As well as documenting the concert, I was commissioned to write several pieces about it in the months leading up to it, and those can be read at http://scottishensemble.wordpress.com/
Glasgow, 2014. View Larger

A still from Scottish Ensemble’s phenomenal concert ‘20th Century Perspectives: City Spaces and Strings’ which was staged in a disused part of the modernist landmark The Anderston Centre. As well as documenting the concert, I was commissioned to write several pieces about it in the months leading up to it, and those can be read at http://scottishensemble.wordpress.com/

Glasgow, 2014.


you are painfully attractive. it's painful because i can't be with you. from Anonymous

Don’t worry: I’m losing my hair and the wrinkles are starting to show. But seriously, “Every heart to love will come. But like a refugee.”