The Barefoot Poet 

The Barefoot Poet 


Angus Malcolm on his journey from writing to photography – and back to words 

When I first picked up a camera in 2008, it was because I was getting frustrated with words.  I had been living from writing words in one way or another for most of my adult life, so perhaps I just needed a change. 

I started out typing other people’s words, having talked my way into a job as a word processor operator.  This job is no longer a thing.  But it was a big deal at a time when most people in offices did not know how to type and had no idea how to use a computer.   

So I was paid to sit and type other people’s words although, as one of my podcast guests who worked with me at that time said in an episode yet to be broadcast, I never just typed other people’s words – I always rewrote them.  Sometimes it got me fired, sometimes it got me promoted and eventually it got me a career.   

An incredible woman who took me under her wing and remains one of my greatest friends today led into the UK’s response to HIV where I ended up working in HIV health promotion.  My job was to look at how we could use words and messages to support men who needed to adapt to a life-threatening change of circumstances.   

It was a very traumatic time for the men that I encountered or whose lives I touched – sometimes literally, as a volunteer massage therapist on the AIDS ward of a major London teaching hospital.  

There came a point where I didn’t want to think about death anymore.  Fortunately, new therapies meant that contracting HIV was on its way to becoming a chronic, treatable condition. I decided I wanted to write about other things.   

I went to work at the BBC where I encountered another incredible woman who became my boss and remains one of my greatest friends today.  She encouraged me as a writer and enabled me to think in the visual language of a script writer instead of the descriptive language of prose.   

As I moved on from the BBC to other TV work and then eventually to photography and the Warwick Rowers project, my friend admired my transition from working with words to working with image, but I think she always felt that there were some things I still needed to put down in writing. 

Just after lockdown, we were sitting in Blacks, our favourite hangout in London’s Soho – and the setting for some of the most historic moments at WR and Sport Allies (after many years in the background, some of you may remember it eventually featured in our 2022 calendar and several issues of ROAR Portfolio).   

My friend asked me if I ever missed being a writer. By way of answer, I read her a poem. She loved it.  She could see why I had loved it, too, and asked who had written it.  She did not believe me I said that it was one of my own, but once I had persuaded her it really was, she demanded that I keep writing more poems, even if it was just for her.  So I have.  How could I not?  I’m very susceptible to flattery and have been very grateful for my friend’s guidance and support ever since. 

I now have enough poems to publish a book, or launch a substack, or give live performances.  I may well try to do all of those things, but I want to start sharing these poems with you first.   

You are the people who came with me on an extraordinary journey.  You have appreciated my work as a photographer, and I hope that some of the experiences and perspectives that I will be sharing in my writing will also resonate with you.   

I still plan to continue with my work as a visual artist – some of it will be photography, film, and my on-screen life as stage mother to the guys who step in front of my camera.  However, what I see when I look at men and at the changing world around us can be too much for me to explain in images.   

Sometimes I need to use my words.  I hope you will enjoy them.