Art / Photography

In the early 80s there wasn’t much choice for a young person with next to no education or qualifications from a rough area in Edinburgh.

One of those choices was the Youth Opportunities Programme, allegedly training but more often than not it became cheap labour for participating employers.

Luckily the placement I was put into was in a traditional photo lab in the West End of Edinburgh, which worked with a wide range of clients, from people coming in from the street to get a roll of film developed and printed to artists who wanted the specialist services the lab offered.

As you would expect at the start there was a lot of making cups of teas, cleaning, answering the phone, and going to the post office with packages being sent around the world.

As my time there progressed I was taken into the dark room, first to see how to turn a roll of exposed film into negatives, then how to make contact sheets, and eventually how to make test prints. Understandably the only final prints I could make in that year I was there were of my own photographs, never a clients.

Oh, I hadn’t mentioned that they gave me a camera and a regular supply of film to play with so I could understand the process from start to finish. It was an old Zenit, but it was my first camera and I was allowed to keep it! I also think this was why I never really became obsessed with cameras as they just became a tool, especially one like the Zenit showed that you could produce work from practically any camera.

It was a great year but it did have to come to a stop, and it felt way too early. I still have a lot of fond memories and respect for everyone there who showed this young Niddrie boy trust and respect and took time to teach me things.

My next stop in my photography journey was with the Craigmillar Festival Society which ran a community newspaper and, luckily, I was able to get on another training scheme with them.

'Say No'
‘Say No’

I spent another year with them learning how to photograph for publication and using the dark room they had to produce what was needed for the paper but also use it for my own prints. Thankfully I didn’t just have to go around and photography burnt out cars and buildings, the Craigmillar Festival Society did a lot of outreach work in schools and during the Edinburgh Festival/Fringe and I got to take lots of photographs of that as well.

During this time I was able to start to develop my eye and style and started to realise that there was much more to photography than the mere mechanics and chemicals of it all.

The person who ran the photography side of it all started to introduce me to the famous photographers such as Bill Brandt, Alexander Rodchenko, Robert Kappa, Diane Arbus, and so many more, he also talked about photography and its standing in the art world both as a contemporary and historic practice. We also had a great time talking about journalism and photography, it was another period where people were very generous with their time and knowledge.

It was at the end of this period that ‘real’ life started to intervene and I had to find a paying job.

Pizza Man
Pizza Man

That was 40 years ago and no matter what job, training, or learning I did after that I always had photography there as a hobby and interest.

There were a couple of times when I felt like taking my practice a bit further; winning a photography competition with the Amateur Photographer that talked favourably about my eye and style, and being included in a couple of exhibitions at Palace Arts in Redcar. But promotions and professional training intervened with the idea of career still at the forefront of my mind and unfortunately I never went further than an enthusiastic amateur.

In 2014 I started an Art History degree with the Open University which opened my eyes and allowed me to talk and think about art, art history, art practice, and art theory as valid aspects of my life.

It’s taken a while since finishing the degree to get settled enough to think about my own photographic practice in relation to all I’ve learned and how I want to synthesise my learning into a cohesive practice.

So it’s here that I’m going to look at developing a self-guided programme to work toward, from relearning the basics of camera function, expanding my theoretical knowledge and how it relates to me, and developing projects to work on and show.

I’m really looking forward to showing you where I’m at as I go through this journey and will be updating this part of the blog regularly.

Group Shows

  • ‘Steel’ – 13/02/16 to 13/03/16 – Palace Arts Gallery, Redcar (Prayers of Steel)
  • New Year Show – 10/01/15 to 15/03/15 – Palace Arts Gallery, Redcar (Blue Trilogy)


  • Amateur Photographer – Photographs of Sage, Gateshead – 14/06/08 (8 images)

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