Photographing Glasgow has become second nature to me. I’ve lived in the City for a decade and a half now and it just seems a natural thing to do.
I used to take my Canon camera and go for walks, snapping things of interest. Once the cameras in mobile phones got better, I became a bit of a nuisance to go anywhere with. I have a tendency to suddenly stop to take photographs. Usually with no warning.
I am certainly not a photographer. My training was in design. However, the 4 year course had some unusual complementary classes. One of these was photography. I have to be honest and say that all the technical side bores me a little. This is because I am much more interested in composition and the artistic side. I did however enjoy processing in the dark room. It was magical. Something that is almost gone now that we have moved to digital.
I don’t get about so easily at the moment and I was pleasantly surprised when I had a virtual tour of Glasgow whilst tidying up my files recently. Some of these have formed a basis for my artwork (such as the painting of the City viewed from Castlemilk, above) and some were taken just for the sake of it.
As photography is a cousin of art, I thought I would add my own little history of Glasgow since around the early noughties to 2016.
When I was a design student back in the 80’s, I found Glasgow such an exciting place. Having grown up in the New Town of East Kilbride, although Glasgow was only ten miles away, it was a world away in atmosphere and style.
For our fourth year thesis, we had to choose a building to convert the interior of. Every building I chose was rejected. First I chose the “Church On The Hill” at Battlefield Monument. I was told by my lecturer it would be sacrilege to convert this church. It was lying abandoned at the time. For nearly two decades, it has been a bar and restaurant and upstairs has held art exhibitions. I’d love to get a hold of the lecturer and point this out. It gets better though. I then chose to convert a building on St Andrews Square in Glasgow. This was allowed to go ahead and turned it into a music megastore with cafes. The Lecturer then advised me that I was marked down as there was no chance another record store would open up in Glasgow as it was at saturation point.
Get Another Job Mr Lecturer
This lecturer really was an asshole. The year after I finished college in 1988, Tower Records moved into the City. HMV and Virgin both opened other massive stores too. The guy never had a clue. He shouldn’t have been allowed near young adults. Despite him marking me down, my Thesis got a distinction thanks to my other lecturer, well known Glasgow artist George Devlin. George died in 2015. He was quite a character.
As part of my investigations into St Andrews Square, I popped into the St Andrews In The Square Church. I wasn’t expecting much but was met by a wonderful man who acted as a caretaker and when I told him I was a student, he took me a tour. He asked me I was brave. At 21 years old, you don’t say “no” to a question like that. Do you see the very top of the spire in the photo above? Well, that is where he took me! It truly was terrifying. It didn’t feel safe and was all rickety and wooden feeling. I have some old photos of the experience somewhere which I will post here when I look them out.
The square itself is really stunning in its geometric design. There are now very swanky residential flats and the building I based my project on is now architects offices.
Student Life In Glasgow
City Of Pure Culture
Glasgow in the 80’s was a changing place. The Garden Festival and City of Culture title at the end of the decade have left positive memories and gave real improvements to the City. This has of course been maintained most recently by the hosting of the Commonwealth Games.
Back in the 80’s when I was a know-it-all design student, Saturday nights were usually spent at the Students Union on the 6th floor at Strathclyde University. Watered down beer was a fact of life. You had to drink 6 pints just to feel even slightly merry.
Bands used to come to the Union and it was cheap to get in if you were a member of the union. I saw all sorts from The Untouchables, whose only hit was “Free Yourself” to Gary Glitter who back then was a regular on the student circuit. Now of course, he is best forgotten about. I also saw Divine live. Absolutely hilarious and at 19 years old it was the first time I saw two men kissing. It was quite shocking to a 19 year old new town boy but what did you expect at a Divine gig?
One night on the way out, some poor soul fell over the balustrade and fell 6 floors to their death. The union was shut the next week. When it reopened, netting had been put in place to prevent any further tragedy.
The photo above was taken not too long ago. I don’t pass by that way often these days and it was lovely to see that the Union is still there 30 years on.
Glasgow Architecture Photographs
After completing my four years studying design and beginning work life, I only returned to Glasgow for social and business trips. I did not live in the city until 2001. One of the things I was taught as a student was to look up. Much of Glasgow’s most wonderful architecture requires you to lift your gaze to above shop level. My girlfriend back in the early 90’s worked for an old architects practice called “Walter Underwood & Partners”. The main partner was called David Leslie. He was a lovely man and wrote a book called “Glasgow Revealed” which was all about looking up.
The photo above was taken from the top floor of the Lighthouse in Glasgow. I had to attend a meeting there for a business presentation not long after it opened. I also have now exhibited my artwork there at several art exhibitions. This photo was taken during one of these and shows that sometimes to get a different view of architecture, you also have to look down.
Cathedral Photography & Art
Only relatively recently, I visited Glasgow Cathedral for the first time. I was absolutely blown away. It is a stunning building. I was fascinated that part of it is almost identical to Roslyn Chapel of Davinci Code fame. I was so impressed by the Cathedral that I have painted it a few times. One of my paintings was a commissioned piece. A family in New Zealand wanted a Glasgow Artist to paint the Cathedral as a gift to their son’s school which is called St Kentigerns. St Kentigern is the alternative name for Glasgow’s patron Saint, St Mungo.
Click to see some of my GLASGOW ARTWORK
In a similar style to the Cathedral is the City Chambers on George Square. It is a wonderful building. It is well lit at night and is reminiscent of the equally stunning Mitchell Library at Charing Cross. I took the above photo one night passing through the square at dusk.
This photograph was taken in front of the City Chambers at the Cenotaph. I felt bad snapping a shot of this random elderly gentleman. He was shuffling along but it was such a poignant image.
This photograph was taken at the side of the City Chambers. Glasgow was temporarily turned into a Hollywood film set for the shooting of the movie World War Z. There was much excitement as Brad Pitt, accompanied by Angelina Jolie were there. It was interesting to see how things were faked for the shoot. I’ve seen the movie and it’s strange seeing how well a few Americanised street signs and yellow cabs readily turn Glasgow into Philadelphia,
Angels Over Glasgow
Another quirky Glasgow building is the Angel Building in Kinning Park. I lived near this for a while. It is mainly known for having La Fiorentina restaurant at it’s base. If the angel sculpture was removed, I do believe this architecture would resemble the Munster’s house.
If you don’t look up you miss things like Queen Victoria on the side of Glasgow Royal Infirmary.
Some of the new buildings in Glasgow appeal to my artist’s eyes. Possibly because of my design background. The Nautical College was demolished and recently replaced by a very geometric building. Many people don’t seem to like it but I think it’s fantastic. It looks like quite a clever design on closer inspection.
The Nautical College is just across the road from The Interior Design and Photography annexe of the Glasgow College Of Building & Printing where I studied in the 80’s. I used to stand waiting on my bus at the nearby Citizens Theatre bus stop. I would stand 3 feet away from my father, who I discovered worked at the Nautical College. He never recognised me. My parents divorced when I was 11 and he later told me that he never recognised me as people change a lot between 11 and 19 years old. He was sad about it but I didn’t have it in me at the time to walk up to someone who didn’t recognise me and say “hello Dad”. This went on for four years. I patched things up with my father before his death in 2011.
Glasgow College Of Building & Printing Department Of Design & Photography.
The above photograph was taken in 2016. The building is where I studied Interior Design for four years from 1984 to 1988. Design & photography had been taught there since the early 1960’s and it is sad that it closed this year. Over 50 years of teaching the same subjects. The building now has a “For Sale” sign on it.
This is the building where I met my wife and learned what was to become my career for 16 years. Some of the lecturers were wonderful and some were just the absolute worst. Some of the things that happened were a joke.
We were lucky to have some well known Scottish painters who taught us. In my time there I was taught by George Devlin, George Birrell and the wonderful Pam Carter.
Pam Carter was like a breath of fresh air, She really tried to help and encourage students in a sea of negativity. She was funny and really seemed to care. She helped me immensely. Pam had had enough after a year and none of us blamed her for leaving. She went from strength to strength and her artwork is now instantly recognisable as she is at the top of the tree when it comes to Scottish landscape artists.
The above photograph was taken on a very unusual day when the Clyde was completely flat. I also took this shot.
It is strange for me now that I pass this area and my old college quite frequently. It is hard not to have memories of all the people and events. I am still in touch with some people from college who have become life long friends.
The area around Florence Street , the Gorbals has changed beyond recognition. Back then, I was a naive boy from East Kilbride and I wandered into the notorious “Hutchie” slum one day to take what I thought would be interesting photos. People were jumping out of windows and running away all over the place. I later found out that they possibly thought I was the police or the department for social security! A similar thing happened to me at the nearby Paddy’s market in the 80’s when I was told by someone to “put that fucking camera away”.
River Clyde Tidal Weir
The tidal weir in the photo above fascinates me. It is to help prevent the Clyde flooding.
This following photo was taken as a Cormorant stopped for a rest on the part of the weir that is mechanically raised and lowered to hold back the water accordingly. I have also seen huge Herons in the same area.
Cormorants are quite common on the Clyde. They are large, jet black birds. Very elegant when they sit in their vertical pose. I took this following photograph on the waterfront at Kinning Park. The wooden posts are the remains of the pier where ships heading to Australia with emigrating Scots left from. This is all that remains of it today. Perfect for Cormorants.
The wildlife around Glasgow has really surprised me. I’ve seen things that I’ve really not expected to. For a while, I lived right next to Hogganfield loch. The loch is interesting as it is part of a series of ponds and waterways, some of which flow under the ground.
I took the above shot at Hogganfield. The bird life is varied but there are of course lots of Pigeons. I think pigeons get a bad name unfairly. They are actually very intelligent birds and throw some great shapes when they are in flight.
One of the things I loved most about Hogganfield was seeing the swans laying eggs. It was possible to watch the transition of life from an egg to cygnet to swan. Sometimes the cygnets would get taken by a Heron, which was sad but is of course the way of nature.
The swans at Hogganfield loch are Whooper Swans and Mute Swans. There were also lots of African Geese, which I discovered are not actually from Africa.
Sometimes I paint or draw from my photographs. Nature does things so well that to try and emulate it just leaves you with a cheesy piece of naff artwork. Take the photo above. It’s as if I’d asked the Swans to get into that rather wonderful ménage à trois formation. If i turned it into an artwork, it would be cheesy as hell. I know some of my art has not been the best it could be but I try hard these days not to add to the abundance of cliche-ridden paintings and drawings that litter the internet.
The loch really was an incredible place and right on the edge of the city. There were several other photographs which I will probably never use as source material for my paintings as they would look corny. As photos though, they tell the truth about beautiful Glasgow sunsets.
The loch was also wonderful on misty, gloomy days. I would try to make it around unless it was freezing cold. Misty days though brought a whole different mood and I loved it.
Glasgow Park Life
Before I lived in Glasgow, I didn’t really appreciate the value of parks. Where I grew up in East Kilbride, many people had gardens of their own. I came to understand the need for park areas as in Cities, there is a concentrated high number of people living in tenements and flats.
In addition to Hogganfield loch, I have lived near other parks in Glasgow. Bellahouston Park is huge. It rather inappropriately gets used for massive open air festivals which cause huge disruption to the locals but it all comes down to money doesn’t it?
I thought Bellahouston was boring when I first moved there but it is not boring at all.
The main entrance to Bellahouston Park is a wonderful tree-lined avenue. It casts magnificent shadows and is free from the annoyance of cars. Hidden in the park are all sorts. There is an outdoor gym and in the middle are remnants of the 1938 Empire Exhibition.
On a stroll one evening I snapped this shot showing that education in the use of the apostrophe is a must.
No, I really can’t be bothered with that kind of Glasgow “wildlife”. As amusing as it is , just neds spoiling things for everyone else. Glasgow Council seem to be on top of stuff like this though and get it removed reasonably quickly.
I also took this rather creepy little shot in Bellahouston.
The subject was a dog-walker. Completely innocent but I like the way the photograph turned out.
Bellahouston has other odd “wildlife” too.
If you look closely, you will see a life-sized elephant. It catches a lot of people out but it is actually a sculpture. It is made from recycled scrap from old Glasgow locomotives by sculptor Kenny Hunter. It really is quite special.
Bellahouston is fantastic for mature trees, as are the surrounding areas. Like many artists, I am also a bit of a tree-lover. Nearby Pollok Park which houses the wonderful Burrell Collection is also a tree-painters paradise.
Dear Green Place
The word Glasgow apparently means “Green Basin” but more recently I have heard that it means “Dear Green Place”. It’s certainly not all that green now apart from its parks. Central most, is Glasgow Green which is steeped in history too. There are still washing poles which have been left to honour women from the City’s past and now stand like an art installation.
Glasgow Green also houses the wonderful People’s Palace Museum. It has great trees and monuments too.
On a stroll around Glasgow green in autumn, I caught Nelson’s Column with the sun right behind it.
Some of the autumnal tree-lined perspectives made for great shots too.
Then there was this tree. It looked amazing as it was changing its colours. The woman in the shot wouldn’t move away though. I tried to be patient but I think she was somewhat of a perfectionist. She was taking a photo too. In the end, I took the shot with her in it. At least she gives an idea of scale.
Glasgow Green gets used for lots of events. Those who live nearby have to be tolerant. Glasgow Council are pushing it now though with talk of T in The Park coming to the Green. It is just too much to ask that on top of The World Pipe Band Championships, Pride, Guy Fawkes Night and a host of other noisy events, locals have to live with three days of the behaviour that T brings. It’s a great festival: but it’s not appropriate to stick it bang in the middle of a City.
Quirky Glasgow Photography
I have lots of other photos which I may upload and blog about in future. For now I will finish with some thoughts and little odd things I have seen in my 15 years living in Glasgow.
Back in the 1970’s I used to visit my Gran, who lived in a tenement. It was like travelling to another world. Not so long ago, I visited a friend who lives in a tenement in the West End. It has retained the good parts of this robust old building design and added to it in a good way. Green areas, tended plants etc. It had a charm about it. This was just like the view from my Grans but back in the 70’s there were no plants. Just “middens” and lots of boisterous glesga weans running riot. I used to love getting to go and play with them. They were so different from the kids I was used to in East Kilbride. At 7 years old, you really did feel as if you were hundreds of miles away rather than just a bus ride.
Glasgow Slipping Away
Some parts of Glasgow have gone and there is no doubt that it is for the best. Change is sometimes good, sometimes not. We cannot look at everything with a melancholy mind.
One of the places I do feel sad about is the Glasgow Barras.
The Barras was a true adventure years ago. You could find anything and anyone there. Today it is a shadow of its former self. The lady who sells the deep fried hot doughnuts is still there although her prices have gone up a bit! Many of the traders have moved to Blochairn market which does not have the same atmosphere.
The Glasgow Humour is still present at the Barras. I recently saw this “Arm” Chair. Then there is the book seller who has been there for years. He sells books for next to nothing. He used to be surrounded by other traders and a cafe. Now it’s just him.
I saw some books that looked interesting but I did not have the nerve to pull one from the shelf. This image sums up for me what is happening to The Barras. Much of run – down Glasgow is being replaced.It still has it’s down sides though. I took this photo mid-noughties on the Gallowgate road. A poster of Johnny Rotten on an electricity box and litter blowing in the wind.
Some of the nastier views have been brightened up with murals and street art. Some of it is fantastic. There is even a “Mural Trail”
I recently saw this massive mural on a wall at the Clydeside. It makes a striking image against the backdrop on the buildings on the street above.
Other little oddities over the years for me were when I realised that the Bells Bridge over the Clyde opened up to let boats through. I had no idea that this fragile looking little bridge had a trick up its’ sleeve until one night on a trip “doon the watter” on the famous Waverley paddle steamer. The bridge turns on a central pivot.
Another odd thing was looking out of my window one day with a cup of tea in my hand when I saw First Minister Nicola Sturgeon walking down my street. Love her or loathe her, she certainly puts the work in. She was flanked by what I would guess are body guards and she was going door-to-door. I was tempted to shout “Say Cheese” but I opted for a candid shot instead.
Bad Things About Glasgow
I’m not a photographer. I’m just a Glasgow artist who likes to shoot some snaps. To that end they tend to be of positive, uplifting subjects. There have been some photographs I have taken in Glasgow that have been the opposite of this though.
I took this photograph at the new Queen Elizabeth University Hospital where there is a pregnancy termination clinic. There is also one at the Royal Infirmary. As I was passing the Royal Infirmary once, I saw people like these with signs. They also had crosses with dolls hanging upside down on them with red paint on them. A few feet away, a woman had broken down and was crying on the ground. Her friend was trying to comfort her. It was shocking. These people are religious. Not one of them, having caused such distress to this woman, did anything to help her. We all have opinions and we are all entitled to freedom of speech. However, when it comes to real lives, real suffering, right now versus someones “beliefs” then I believe these people are pure evil.
I told the ones in the photo above that they were evil. They smiled and waved. Stupid grins as they put their “don’t engage” training into practice. I could say so much more but this is not the place.
Glasgow is a fantastic City. It’s slogan for the past few years is “People Make Glasgow”. Before that it was “Glasgow’s miles better”.
It is slowly but surely shaking off it’s “No Mean City” persona. It’s people are funny, stylish, warm and talented.
Another little surprise I got and a nod to a talent from many decades ago was when I found out I was living near to the author of the poem “Wee Willie Winkie”. I have this poem at the end of a fantastic book called “Hilda Boswell’s Treasury Of Nursery Rhymes”. I could read the poems in it from beginning to end before I went to school. I still have the book 45 years later. This is the actual illustration.
Here is the plaque which is on a wall near to the Tennent’s Brewery. The words of the poem are always slightly different but it was nice to find this tribute by accident.