In honour of Pride month, we interviewed David Gwinnutt, Senior Valuer at our Islington office. As well as being a prominent photographer that was recently featured in the National Portrait Gallery, David was voted no.16 on The Independent’s Pink List of top 100 most influential gay men for creating the Pink Jack.
What inspired you to become such an active ambassador for the LGBTQ community?
Despite growing up gay in the 60’s & 70’s, which was a much more prejudiced era, I was extremely fortunate and had a fairly easy time. I never doubted that being gay was OK. I always thought it was pretty cool, especially around the time of punk, when being different was a badge of honour.
What was your inspiration for the Pink Jack, and what was the response like?
I was trying to express my positive experience of being accepted, as well as my pride for being British. I think British people are really cool, especially when it comes to being gay. For example, on my travels as a young man, I’d find myself chatting to people and eventually they’d ask, ‘so have you got a girlfriend?’ and when I said ‘no I’m gay’, they’d always say, ‘oh we know someone who’s gay and he’s really nice!’. I realised that most people in the UK are cool with it on a personal level, it’s just some haters and bigoted press that try to spin it another way.
You’ve also designed a flag for the World Cup, and LGBTQ people attending in Russia. How did this come about?
I recently got in touch with the FA to see if I could help with their campaign to rid homophobia from the game. Through them I met Di Cunningham, who heads the LGBTQ England Supporters Club. Di asked me to create a design for them to take to Russia. I jumped at the chance as I’d had some ideas already.
For me, these designs are about celebrating the similarities between gay and straight people, not highlighting differences. With all the recent issues about homophobia in football and the lack of visible gay players I felt I wanted to challenge the more negative stereotypical perceptions about gay people (that they are weak, can’t catch a ball, can’t play football, etc). So I took the core element of the England badge, the Three Lions, which represents all the strong elements gay people are supposed to lack, and give them a gay twist. After all, what’s more fearsome than a rainbow lion?
Where did you first develop your passion for photography?
In the studio of artist Brian Clarke in Moorgate, where I was crashing on the sofa and being a general layabout and freeloader. He had lots of photography books and I was fascinated by them. I thought I understood it as an art and felt I could do it.
My mum got me an Olympus Trip Instamatic camera, the one David Bailey advertised, and I started taking pictures. I did a series of images of a shower hose laid out in the bathtub looking all arty with the organic natural line of the hose in contrast to the more rectangular non-organic shape of the bath. Brian saw them and said he thought they showed potential and he encouraged me to take it further. So I applied to art school and went to Hornsey School of Art, which coincidentally is not far from where I’m now working.
What would you say are the most important or prevalent issues affecting the LGBTQ community today?
There’s still a lot of prejudice, whether it’s being rejected by your family or being hanged in Iran. I, or any LGBTQ person, can still be legitimately killed in Nigeria just for being who we are. There’s a long way to go for basic human rights around the world but in the UK, which is more culturally liberal, it’s mad to think some kids still can’t come out to their parents without fear of being abused or made homeless.
What advice would you give to a young person struggling with coming out?
Start slowly, and tell maybe just one very trusted person. And never think that it’s a negative thing.
How much have attitudes changed towards LGBTQ people in the past 20 years?
Hugely! We have equal rights at work – you can’t be sacked for being gay. We can get married and we’re more visible and therefore ‘normalised’ on TV. I meet gay couples on property viewings who have their adopted kids with them and I see gay couples holding hands or kissing around Islington. What’s weird is that I see this is society moving ahead of me, as I’m from a different era. I can enjoy it and enjoy seeing it, but it’s moving forward regardless of me and it gives me hope for the future.