Jos Treen’s Glasgow

Jos, Thanks for agreeing to share some of your work with Document Scotland. We came across your images via Twitter a week or two back, where you seem to have been posting scans of old negatives. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and when you were doing these images?Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.

Kelvin Dock - Kids playing on ice © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen
Kelvin Dock – Kids playing on ice © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

Glasgow swing park © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

Jos Treen – The Glasgow set were taken during one-year 1978, first a bit of my history…

I was that kid in the early 1960’s who always took charge of the family camera. What seemed like a revolutionary move at that time persuaded my mother that the camera could take colour film.  I would race round to the local chemist by bike and race back a week or so later to pick up the pictures. Things went on that way right though my teens. Turning twenty my interest in photography was growing and for my 21st birthday I was given an SLR. I owe a huge dept of gratitude to the Hillhead Library, Byres Road in the West End of Glasgow. It was there, reading photobooks and photo magazines I received my photography education. Then one day I opened a photobook that contained some of the work by Henri Cartier Bresson. That was it – I was hooked, had to try and do something like this. In late 1977 my job came to an end, so I decided to spend the next year walking the streets with the camera.

I took my SLR with its standard kit lens and as much TRI-X as I could afford and started taking pictures. My darkroom was one of those that only got dark at night and the water for developing and printing went from cold to freezing…. At the time these things didn’t seem to matter.

Factory and flats, Glasgow. © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

Maryhill Road, Glasgow. © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

I went out to record the lives and the environment of the people I lived with in Glasgow. I shopped at the same shops, signed on at the same Job Centre, visited the same pubs. I didn’t go out to specifically record the appalling housing and poverty that was a backdrop to their resilience and humor. I always tried to show people in the context of their environment or buildings and situations which were unique to Glasgow.

I discovered something about myself about 20 years ago, that explained all my issues with reading and writing – I’m dyslexic. A lot of photographers are. I suddenly realized why I felt naturally drawn to a camera. It was my way of framing and telling a story. Looking through a viewfinder made perfect sense. No letters jumping around just pure composition.  

‘Temptation’, Glasgow © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

Coffin, Glasgow. © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

A small number of the Glasgow pictures where shown at Strathclyde University Library in October 1978.  

In 1979 had a crisis of confidence, lack of money, needed a job so went back to chemistry. Spent the next 37 years in the Chemical industry……. Keeping up an interest in photography whenever I could.

In the pedestrian tunnel, Glasgow © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

On retirement tried a few things but never felt if it was right for me. Then in mid-2019 I found the negatives from Glasgow and Stromness in my loft, untouched for 40 years! Looking through the negatives, scanning and seeing them again brought it all back. Its fantastic that Document Scotland are considering showing some of these images.

 I knew what I had to next. Get back out on the streets with a camera. 

In 2020, I am emerging at 65 – I want to achieve something with photography that I was not able to do in the 70’s.

Glasgow Green, © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

See more work from Jos Treen on his Twitter feed.

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Peter Degnan’s ‘Mother Glasgow’

Trying to keep up to date with the current tumultuous news of life on Twitter it’s heartening to scroll to a Tweet which shows images and catches your eyes. Such has been the way this past week or so when I’ve discovered two photographers posting old images of Glasgow and beyond.  I dropped them both a note, and now have the pleasure of sharing some of their work and a few Q&A’s with them, over the coming days. Hope you enjoy them.

Today we start with the lovely work of Peter Degnan. I look at his images of the Jock Stein testimonial and get jealous; his image of the Granary building bring back memories of myself being on top of it photographing ship launches; and the whelk shop in the Barras, a place I was discussing with someone just recently… Great to see Peter, thank you for sharing it all. – Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.

Peter introduces himself on his website with these words: 

I have been involved with photography seriously since about 1976 when I bought my first SLR camera, a Russian “Zenith E” with a 50mm lens. I became involved with camera clubs in the early days and although I enjoyed my time in them socially, the competitive and prescriptive nature of them was not always to my liking.

I was predominantly shooting in black and white and processing and printing all my own work at this time.

I am self-taught in both my photography taking and processing and printing and I was fortunate enough to always have a darkroom at home, so more often than not I could be found in there working on new projects. Although I did not set out to profit from my work I did manage to sell a few images following a small exhibition of my work in The Paisley Arts Centre.

Around the late 1990’s until about 2002 I took a break from working at the level I had been for a number of reasons. Firstly I had a major move of jobs and living location, secondly the kids were growing up and finally the dawn of digital photography was starting to take a hold and I was watching with interest.

Although I still had my film cameras and lenses, my first digital camera was to be a Fujifilm Finepix. I was basically dabbling with digital until such time as I switched from Windows computers and bought an iMac and simultaneously took out an Adobe subscription to Lightroom and Photoshop and this gave me the encouragement to start back where I had left off.

Up until about 2012 my taste in photography was wide ranging and included taking landscape, portraits and transport photographs. My passion however is documentary and street photography. I have always endeavoured to record as I was going about my photography and still do to this day. Although street photography can take many forms, it is the documentary element that interests me most. In 2019 I produced my first photo-book entitled “Mother Glasgow” and some of the images it contains can be seen in my My Galleries. This was followed up with a Zine version and both of these can be purchased using the Publications like above.

In 2019, in order for me to try and progress with my documentary/street photography, I decided to end my association with Nikon equipment and purchase a Fujifilm 100X-F camera which is my first mirror-less camera and I am enjoying using it as it is so discrete on the streets. I have recently supplemented this with the purchase of the excellent Fujifilm X-T3 and some lenses.

 

 

Govan, July 1977. aken from the bottom of Water Row in Govan this view shows what was the Meadowhall Granary on the north side of the Clyde. This whole vista has disappeared now, replaced by modern flats. ©Peter Degnan.

Govan, July 1977. Taken from the bottom of Water Row in Govan this view shows what was the Meadowhall Granary on the north side of the Clyde. This whole vista has disappeared now, replaced by modern flats. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Document Scotland – Roughly what period did you shoot these b/ws?

Peter Degnan – All of the photographs were produced between the mid 1970s and the late 80s. It was a very interesting time for Glasgow with lots of changes going on. It was also back in the film era and one regret I have is that I didn’t take more. I have resisted going public with a lot of the images because leaving a gap of over 40 years since I took them makes the contrast in people and places more noticeable.

 

The Barras, July 1978. This chap could be found roaming around The Barras at the weekend, and was one of many characters that frequented the area. There was so much underhand dealing going on at times in the Barras that his message I fear would fall on deaf ears. ©Peter Degnan.


What was the motivation behind you going out on the streets looking for images, and for attending events such as the Jock Stein testimonial?

From the outset my photography style has always been of the documentary/photojournalistic style. It wasn’t a conscious decision it was just something I felt comfortable doing and always had a fascination for old photographs that recorded life. I was always on the lookout for events. The Jock Stein Testimonial I knew would be a huge event given the love the support had for him so I was determined to get in on that. I have also taken pictures at political rallies, marches and some during the miners strike. I am glad for example that I took photographs of The Barras in its heyday, because it is just a shadow now of what it was.

 

1978. A full stadium welcomed Jock Stein on the night and his Lisbon Lions. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Was it easy getting access? You look very close to your subjects, and in amongst it all, what was your approach?

I was basically an amateur photographer trying to get the shots that I wanted so getting in close was required. I discovered that so long as I looked and acted the part nobody challenged me. For example the Jock Stein Testimonial. Myself and a friend noticed that the Daily Record photographers wore red Adidas cagoules when covering games so we bought these out of Millets Stores. On the night we entered the stadium through the turnstiles with our kit and red cagoules on and walked down onto the track around the pitch where the invalid cars would drive. The police just parted and let us through. That is why the pictures look close up, I was standing on the pitch trying my best to look professional and it worked. Probably impossible to attempt now due to security and issuing of accreditation bibs etc.

1978. A full stadium welcomed Jock Stein on the night and his Lisbon Lions. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Did the work get exhibited much or published back then?

No not really. I was basically doing my own thing and building up an archive of work. I was doing all my own darkroom work at the time as well. I did have a small exhibition of work in the bar of the Paisley Art Centre which resulted in a few sales of prints but that was about it. I never really pushed my work but I knew there could be interest in it at some time.

Were you looking at other photography back then? Who was inspiring you, if anyone?

I would have to say that the biggest influence on my work has been Oscar Marzaroli. I became aware of his work early on in my photography journey and have been an admirer to this day. I met him briefly at the Third Eye Centre in 84. I was looking at one of his photographs and I became aware of him standing beside me. We chatted about his work and I asked him for advice on how maybe some day I could get work exhibited. His simple advice was, “Just keep taking photographs”. I have also been a big fan of Don McCullin. Not so much his excellent war photography but they way he would capture every day life.

 

Govan, 1981. I took a number of shots in and around Govan capturing the change to that part of Glasgow. It was in the process of loosing its tenement community and ship building industry. This was taken just after a snowfall and captures two policemen wandering down one of the oldest streets in Govan, Water Row, towards what was the ferry landing. ©Peter Degnan

 

Govan Subway, 1977. As Glasgow was modernising above ground the same could be said for below ground with its Subway system. Major reconstruction meant the old Victorian era wooden rolling stock had to go and this shot was taken capturing this process at the Broomloan Road works in Govan. It shows workmen stripping the bogies off of the carriages and preparing them to be scrapped. ©Peter Degnan

 

Did you have contact with other photographers, or for in any collective way at all?

Not really, apart from the usual Camera Club experiences early on. I am self taught in both the taking and processing of my work and haven’t studied photography in an academic way. Everything I know and practice has been through experience and trial and error. Social media can be a good way of meeting like minded photographers and I have recently attended a couple of workshops on Street Photography, followed up by sharing my work with the StreetSnappers Collective both on-line and through contributing to a book we recently produced.

 

 

Glasgow Loyalist March, 1981. This element of Glasgow life was always something I wanted to capture. Not because I support it but because it is an important part of the sectarian tapestry that blights the city. The march started in North Street and meandered through Bridgeton Cross to Glasgow Green. The contrast of tenements coming down to create a new modern Glasgow is juxtaposed by the March, which was amongst other things protesting about the upcoming visit to Glasgow of Pope John Paul 2nd. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Glasgow Loyalist March, 1981. This element of Glasgow life was always something I wanted to capture. Not because I support it but because it is an important part of the sectarian tapestry that blights the city. The march started in North Street and meandered through Bridgeton Cross to Glasgow Green. The contrast of tenements coming down to create a new modern Glasgow is juxtaposed by the March, which was amongst other things protesting about the upcoming visit to Glasgow of Pope John Paul 2nd. ©Peter Degnan.

 

You’ve made a book recently ‘Mother Glasgow’, how did that come about and what was the process?
Did you edit that yourself?

As previously mentioned, I resisted sharing many of my B&W negative film images until I decided the time was right. Last year I decided that the time had come to do this and given it is so easy these days to produce photo books I decided to bite the bullet. I chose around 50 images depicting Glasgow in the 70s and 80s, including a section on The Barras. I edited the book and laid it out using the Book module in Adobe Lightroom. The resulting PDF of the book was uploaded to Mixam and in a couple of weeks time I had my first book which I had titled “Mother Glasgow”. It was really quite emotional to see my work like this after all these years. I realised that not everyone would want to go for the expense of a hard backed book so I decided to produce a Zine of “Mother Glasgow” and these have sold very well. The feedback I have received over “Mother Glasgow” has been very rewarding.

 

The Barras, April 1985. Taken through the window of one of the many mussel and whelk shops at The Barras. This woman wearing her headscarf whilst working inside the shop was typical of most women at the time. The absence of pre-packed food and scales for weighing loose produce is a sign of the time. ©Peter Degnan.

 

The Barras, October 1977. At this time The Barras was great for photography, but it could also be a dangerous place with traders often asking if you were from the DSS (Social Security) and even getting “Heavies” to stand beside you watching what you were photographing. This chap had just pointed me out to the crowd as being from the DSS. It gives the picture a sort of Thomas Annan feel with all the people just staring into the camera. ©Peter Degnan

 

Where can people buy your book?

The hardback version of “Mother Glasgow” is available from Blurb at the following location:
https://www.blurb.co.uk/b/9436438-mother-glasgow

The smaller Zine (A5) version is available to order through my website by ordering using the Contact Me form.  https://peterdegnanphotography.com

Are you on Social media, if so, what are the accounts?

I have the website as mentioned above and I am also on Twitter @peterdegnan2.

 

 

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Archive feature: Jute Spinning in Dundee

There is a lot of debate these days about the role of journalism in our daily lives. Questions are asked as to where we get our information from, and the all-pervading accusation of ‘fake news’ is something which causes a real stooshie amongst the general public and also in the journalistic trade.

It’s easy to look back and imagine that there were glory days when everything we read and saw was trustworthy and of maximum veracity. This week, as the unfolding nightmare of COVID-19 surrounds our every move, the role of the journalist in narrating these historic events should not be undervalued. My mind drifted back to an assignment I did for the Independent newspaper in 1998. It’s not so much the subject (more of that later) which made me nostalgic, but rather the location. The city of Dundee, famous in modern history for the ‘Three Js’ – jute, jam and journalism.

Let’s muddle them up and take a look at jam first. There is indeed still a traditional Dundee marmalade maker which identifies itself with the city, although production takes place a few miles outside the city, up the Angus coast. The sweet smell of Seville oranges being lovingly cooked and permeating the city streets is, alas, no more. And ditto jute. And this is where my photographs come in.

Part of my brief as a photographer working for the Independent in Scotland was to ferret out interesting local stories which would be of relevance to the newspaper’s wider readership across the UK. In those days, the ‘Indy’ was very much image-led. More-often-than not, a story would be published on the strength of an interesting or arresting image. It was not uncommon to find the story itself wasn’t actually part of the package, rather the photograph would be emblazoned across the broadsheet’s page with nothing more than a deep caption to aid navigation and inform the reader. For a photographer this was a great challenge – and opportunity. Having to constantly think not only about an interesting story, but also whether the illustration would be strong enough to make the paper meant you were always on the look out for little gems and nuggets which would first-and-foremost make a good picture.

I stumbled across Tay Spinners in the way I discovered many of my stories during that period. A small item was mentioned in the local paper in Dundee telling us that Europe’s last remaining jute spinning mill was about to close, due to delays and red tape with the delivery of the raw material from Bangladesh. With supplies no longer reliable, Tay Spinners in the city’s Arbroath Road, took the decision to close its door for good at the end of 1998.

Jute spinning had begun in Dundee in 1838 and at its height the city – which was nicknamed Jutopolis – boasted 150 mills with a workforce of around 40,000, both men and women. The steep decline set in during the 1950s with the invention and manufacture of cheaper, less labour-intensive synthetic alternatives to jute, mainly used in the carpet industry. Ironically, when Tay Spinners closed, it was seen as a modern and profitable factory, far removed in atmosphere from the famed ‘dark, Satanic mills’ of old. Nevertheless, the sad decision to close did present me with an opportunity and I was lucky to be allowed into the facility, to meet and mingle with the workers and photograph undisturbed.

Like many such assignments, the priority was to get a photograph which could hold a page. Beyond that, any ideas of shooting a wider feature would have to wait for another day – if that day ever came. In the world of an endless, rolling cycle of news, chances are I would be on to the next story the following day and the opportunity to return quite often couldn’t happen due to work pressures and distances involved. On the day of the original assignment I shot everything on colour film (this was in the pre-digital age) and used a local newspaper office to process the negatives and wire it to the picture desk in London. It duly appeared – with a three-line caption – the following day. As I had a gap in my diary, I returned a few days later to Dundee and managed then to spend more time getting to know the workforce and the processes involved in their jobs without the pressure of a deadline. This time, maybe with an eye to producing something more lyrical and with a more historical feel to it, I chose to shoot not only in monochrome with my 35mm camera, but using my beloved Hasselblad XPan, my favourite-ever machine. Using it on a day-to-day deadlined assignment was a non-starter (the negative, with dimensions of 65mm x 24mm couldn’t be scanned on my portable device). Instead, with time not an issue, I produced a small body of work which built on the colour images I made on the original trip.

Although the black-and-white images have not been published or exhibited at all widely, they did eventually come to the attention of the National Galleries of Scotland and a set of four were purchased for the nation’s photography collection. Given the opportunity I do wish I could have spent even more time at Tay Spinners, but sometimes you just have to be grateful for what you get. I was on that occasion.

Which leads me finally to the last of the Js in Dundee: journalism. It’s still there, although it too is in a much slimmed-down, denuded form. I suspect I would not recognise what passes for a newsroom or picture desk these days. All my work is done remotely if I do shoot assignments for newspapers. And with decreasing dimensions of publications and shrinking circulations, the opportunities to showcase a simple story and mark an important moment in a city and country’s history are becoming almost as extinct as the ‘Three Js’ are in Dundee.

There’s certainly no prospect of jam tomorrow!

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

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The Great Football Grounds of the North by Brian Sweeney

It’s Saturday afternoon during the coronavirus outbreak and I have the blues. Our football grounds, like the cities and towns across the country, are silent and empty. Like everyone else, I won’t be going to a game today.

There’s something particularly sad and sombre for a football fan to see our stadiums unused and redundant. No cheering crowds or chanting. The weekly routine of supporters making their way to see their favourites, criss-crossing the country in support of their heroes, has been paused. Local pitches, which would normally echo to the exhortations of amateurs are deserted. Turnstiles locked, kiosks closed, bars devoid of punters. It’s a desolate scene being played out across Scotland and beyond.

As a photographer and football fan who spends a lot of my time combining both activities, this current period or furlough (where did that word spring from?) has allowed me to look at work on the subject of our national game by a number of other photographers. It’s always interesting to see work that approaches a subject from a different angle to oneself. For me, there is no game without the fans, and the architecture of the grounds and stadiums remains soft-focused in the background. Others take a different view.

I was delighted to discover a series of photographs by Glasgow-based Brian Sweeney in the new edition of Nutmeg, the Scottish football periodical. In an oddly prescient feature, one conceived, no doubt, before any notions of a lockdown of society and a shutdown of sport, they have reproduced a selection of Sweeney’s images from his project entitled The Great Stadiums of the North. The title is somewhat ironic. It is a playful documentation of football’s far-flung outposts in Scotland, the Faroe islands and Iceland. It is a lyrical look at venues which we wouldn’t normally associate in our minds as being hotbeds of football, but serves as a reminder just how important the game is to local communities in sparsely-populated areas on the fringes of the North Atlantic. An avid football fan and proferssional photographer himself, Sweeney has been shooting the series for over 25 years and it has been shown at various locations across Europe. A planned show at Sogo Arts in Glasgow, however, has been postponed indefinitely due to the current situation.

The images resonate charm and individuality and take us on an odyssey from fog-filled Paisley to snow-covered Akranes. Some grounds are merely rectangles hewn out of the rock. Others are mini-Hampdens, with neat rows of terracing and ramshackle stands. They are all theatres of dreams. The linear collides with the wonky in grounds which look home made and fragile. On the edge, in more sense than one. What marks the photos out is the northern light: penetrating and freezing, even when the sun is shining. It has you reaching for the Bovril, toes curling with cold. As Sweeney states in Nutmeg: “There’s no frills and flourishes on these stadiums. They’re put together in the most practical way possible, matching the local environment and often using local materials. Not too much design has gone into them, yet they have such beauty.”

When this is all over, whenever that is, then we can populate the football grounds again and enjoy the Saturday afternoons we have become accustomed to down through many decades and generations. Maybe it will be a time too to discover these wonderful little grounds, tucked away, anonymous, but still a beautiful part of the beautiful game?

Isle of Eriskay. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Forres Mechanics. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Embo, Sutherland. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Akranes, Iceland. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Reykjanes, Iceland. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Wick Academy. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Keflavik, Iceland. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

John O’Groats. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

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