I began my Glasgow project in the early 70’s when I was twenty. I had just left Glasgow College of Printing after studying commercial photography, and found work in a large advertising studio in Glasgow. This was mostly using 4×5 studio cameras to make transparencies for advertising campaigns in magazines or company brochures for whisky distilleries.
Anyone who lived in Glasgow at that time lived through the extraordinary changes to the city with its urban regeneration scheme. This was the post-war clearances: technological redundancy, de-population and rampant decay. Journeying across the city, vacant and derelict building are to be found from the very centre to the far flung impoverished areas. A new M8 motorway would cut a large trench through the heart of the city and completely blighted areas like Cowcaddens and St Georges Cross that left scenes of desolation. As a photographer I felt I should try and record this post-industrial Glasgow just as the socially concerned photographer Thomas Annan, had done in the 19th century when he recorded the pre-industrial back streets of Glasgow.
About this time I came across a magazine called Creative Camera which was dedicated to what was called Fine Art and documentary photography. The photographs were very different from the usual images seen in photography magazines at the time in the sense they were not about technical information like exposure and lenses etc. Two photographers published in the magazine that really gave me the creative impulse to begin my street photography, were Lee Friedlander and Tony Ray-Jones. Both these photographers had long-term projects, such as Friedlander’s vision of America and Tony Ray-Jones’s images of English traditional customs that were vanishing from the modern world.
So I started ‘Look at Glasgow’ as my project in 1974 and set out to photograph the people and the urban landscape as a street photographer in the vein of the French photographer Atget, images of shop fronts, workers and tenements before they were lost in the urban renewal. It was a bit random to begin with as I would wander around different areas of the city with my camera in the hope of finding interesting street photographs. Eventually I knew I needed to introduce more aspects to the project, so I expanded it into the few heavy industries that still existed like the ship building on the Clyde and was given access photographed in their workshops and yards. The main areas of Glasgow I would concentrate on photographing were, Woodside, Anderston and Govan by the river. Most of my photography was done at weekends and on holidays as I had a full-time job as a studio photographer.
After about 4 years of photographing at weekends, in 1978 I gathered my prints and took them to a gallery in Glasgow to see if they would be interested in having an exhibition of my work. Documentary street photography was not something they were familiar with and felt there was no audience for it, so the planned exhibition never happen.
I moved to London in 1980 to start a film course at the Polytechnic of Central London and left all my prints and negatives with my family up in Glasgow and to be honest completely forgot about them as I started a new career in London. But in 2006 my brother mentioned he had found a box in his house that had my old negatives from my time in Glasgow and wondered if I wanted to keep them. Eventually I went back to Glasgow to collect the box negatives and take them back to London to sort through. At this time I was also recovering from a knee operation and could not work for 6 weeks, so decided to buy a film scanner as I had no access to darkroom to print the negatives. After a long tedious time scanning my negatives, I was not sure what to do next with them so I created a blog and started uploading the images to the internet. I also contacted the Mitchell Reference Library Glasgow, to see if they were interested in having copies of the digital files.
It was always my intention from the start of the project to have an exhibition of this work, but little did I realise it would take 34 years before it would finally be achieved. Sometime in 2013 Allan Brown began a search in The Mitchell Library for images he needed for his soon to be published book on Glasgow humour, and by chance he found some dusty photocopies on a shelf of my photographs. From this point on the images took on a life of their own with four exhibitions in Glasgow, including Street Level Photoworks and Four Café Royal Books publications.
Hugh Hood, November 2014.
Hugh Hood in conversation with Allan Brown at Street Level Photoworks Gallery, Glasgow 2013. Film courtesy of Street Level Photoworks.
Hugh Hood’s Café Royal Books publications can be found here:
Glasgow, The River Underground
Glasgow Streets, published 2013
Glasgow Streets the New Era, published 2013
Glasgow 1974 – 1978, published 2014
All images ©Hugh Hood