Arts & Culture

Black and white era … how photographer Jos Treen captured Glasgow 40 years ago

By Ian Marland at

For those people familiar with social media and Twitter in particular, and who take an interest in Glasgow and its past, there is every chance you will have come across Jos Treen recently.

He is the Manchester-based photographer who has been posting a series of wonderful black and white images of Glasgow from his time living in the city more than 40 years ago.

They largely show the areas around Maryhill, Byres Road and the West End, down to Finnieston and the River.

Shopfront

One of the images published on Jos Treen’s Twitter feed, showing ‘Housewives Meat Market’, Partick.

Badged as ‘The Glasgow 77/78 Rescans’, the images capture the city during a short period of its post-industrial transition, and give a sense of how much has changed in its built landscape and people and how much remains the same.

Jos, short for Jonathan, was a chemistry graduate living just off Byres Road in the late Seventies.

He moved away in 1979 after taking a job in the chemical industry to earn “some badly needed cash”.

Photography remained an interest but the negatives from his Glasgow days lay forgotten in boxes in various lofts until after his retirement last year.

Dumbarton Road

Dumbarton Road, by Mansfield Square, Partick.

Kelvin Dock pub

Two women talking outside the Kelvin Dock pub, Maryhill.

Since April, Jos has been reposting the best of several hundred images he gathered all those years ago to much acclaim on social media.

Cornish-born Jos, 65, recalls his time in Glasgow. His father had taken a defence job in the city after a career in the Navy which had seen the family move around the UK.

“We moved to Torrance north of Glasgow. I did my Highers at Kilsyth Academy and went to Strathclyde University to do chemistry.

“I moved into the West End of Glasgow in 73. I basically stayed there until later 79.

‘Interest’

“I spent most of that time in Great George Street in a flat which I shared with friends.

“In those days, when I graduated, there were not a lot of jobs around.

“I had a job of sorts. It was not up to much, and it kind of finished in mid-late 77 – at a dye works in the east end.

“I thought what do I do now? I had always had that interest in photography.

“I thought I would just take a bit of time and just walk out with my camera, when the weather was good enough to do so.

“I didn’t go to art school or photography college.”

Coffin by a fence

A bit of humour captured on film. A coffin propped up against a tobacco advert.

Dole office

Signing on at the DHSS offices on Maryhill Road.

He was self-taught and learned as he went along.

He would sign on at the dole office and then take himself off with his SLR camera to get his pictures.

“I did all my learning about photography in Hillhead Library on Byres Road.

“I studied magazines on photography for the technical bits.

“And then there was a book by Henri Cartier Bresson and I thought ‘wow’ this is something that I would like to try and do.

“The two magazines I used to look up were National Geographic because it was always good, and the other was the Sunday Times magazine on a Monday or a Tuesday.

Children by the river

Children playing on the ice at the drained Kelvin Dock in Maryhill.

Little girl playing

Little girl at play in the street in Hillhead.

“That was the era when Harold Evans was the editor and Don McCullin was the war photographer.

“I just went out and took photographs of things that were in front of me, up and down Maryhill Road, Byres Road and the areas around.

“Parts of Glasgow were falling down or had been demolished.

“There was poverty and there was deprivation – but I didn’t go out to photograph that.

“I was living amongst these people and this is what it was like.”

Woman crossing Byres Road

Woman crosses Byres Road at the junction with University Avenue.

Steps and tunnel

The Clyde pedestrian tunnel.

Jos has enjoyed the positive response to his old photographs.

Followers have been thrilled to see familiar places from a near-distant era.

One person’s comment is typical: “Can’t tell you how much I’ve loved seeing these photos. Thank you!”

Jos’ Glasgow audience has also served a useful purpose, as he explains.

“I took the photographs but I was very poor at note taking. I’m often saying ‘where the bloody hell was that taken?’

“But somebody will know, I don’t. I have been very honest with people.

“I’ve said here’s the four photographs today and people have engaged with it and told me locations when I can’t remember.”

Man on bench

A man sleeps on a bench by the Kingston Bridge and the River Clyde.

In town with buses

‘Looking east along George St from a vantage point at Strathclyde University’.

Sadly, the collection is not vast and will soon end its run on Twitter.

Not all the negatives are good enough to publish

Jos said: “I want to keep up a certain quality level.

“There’s about a couple of hundred negatives but not all them are worth showing.

“I am not Oscar Marzaroli whose archive has 40,000 negatives.

“I have a couple of hundred of which 50 or 60 might be worth viewing.”

Byres Road

Looking north along a bustling Byres Road.

Jos Treen

Jos Treen

He adds: “I would be delighted if these pictures could be exhibited in Glasgow, of course.

“If you could find the right setting, context, and narrative to go along with it.

“You would need to print it or do it with digital screens, but it would need a lot more planning.

“If there is somewhere in the West End that could show these, that would be just great.”

You can follow Jos’ Twitter feed here.

 

Let’s hope when times allow, these images can be shown again close to where they were taken more than 40 years ago.