Life & Culture

How Blondey McCoy Became Alasdair McLellan’s Muse

Ahead of the release of his new book Blondey 15-21, McLellan discusses his relationship with the skater, artist and designer

Yorkshire boys, Palace skateboarders and ceremonial troops have all formed the subjects of Alasdair McLellan’s books, and yet the photographer’s new publication focuses on a single person: Blondey McCoy.

McLellan met McCoy back in 2013, when the latter was just 15. He shot him soon after and continued to do so for the years that ensued. Seven years later, Blondey 15-21 brings together these images – 150 in total, self-published by McLellan and M/M Paris in an edition of 2,000.

Shot in McLellan’s typically sun-drenched style, these photographs capture a formative time in the skater, artist, designer and model’s life: his journey out of adolescence and into adulthood.

“A lot has happened to Blondey since 2013,” writes Jo-Ann Furniss in the foreword. “He is now 21 years old, on the cusp of turning 22 – although, by his own admission, it feels more like 32. A weariness has crept into his demeanour. This replaced his earlier shyness. 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.”

“Along the way, he lost a front tooth – he can’t really remember how – and people have watched him being knocked over by a black cab many hundreds of thousands of times. He’s gone from Bambi to ennui, you can see it in his eyes; it’s all in the pictures.”

Here, alongside an exclusive set of images from the book selected for Another Man by McLellan, the photographer shares his own reflections on Blondey and the images he’s taken of him.

“I met Blondey through my assistant Lex. Lex is a very good skate photographer. We were looking for someone to photograph for an editorial. He looked like a young Shaun Ryder then. I thought he looked great. But he was very quiet and only ate chips and pizza. 

“I first photographed him in February 2013. In Doncaster. It was freezing but he didn’t care or mind. He was really great to photograph. We became very good mates. It took a while. But he’s nothing like his age when you chat to him. It’s like he’s in his thirties.

“[I’ve continued to photograph him over the years because] he just has a real presence in photos. He also started skating for Palace Skateboards. I worked really closely with Lev on projects for Palace, and Blondey seemed perfect as a bit of a face for Palace as you could put Blondey in any clothing and he always looked really good. 

“It was never meant to be a project or a book. It just happened that I continued to take photos of him. I’ve always been interested in rites of passage as a subject. The idea of growing from an adolescent into an adult. Blondey was coming up to his 22nd birthday. And it seemed to be the right time as I’d photographed him at every age since he was 15 and obviously you change so much between the ages of 15 and 21. And 21 is such a milestone. It seemed to be the right time to bring a book out about this period of his life. It’s rare to find one person or one subject that you photograph during those years that really shape you. 

“This book is an edit of all the photos of all the projects and editorial projects we did together. Plus some new images that hadn’t been seen before. I hope it captures Blondey.”

Blondey 15-21 is out tomorrow via IDEA, as well as stockists including Ofr, Dashwood Books, Claire de Rouen, Donlon Books, Antenne Books.