Culture Trips

The big picture: a different side to Glasgow's tenements

Scottish photographer Douglas Corrance’s shots from the 70s and 80s reject gritty images of poverty in favour of colour and character

Douglas Corrance took this picture in one of Glasgow’s few surviving tenement streets in Maryhill in the late 1970s. Corrance was at the time working as a photographer for the Scottish tourist board, but there was, then, not much interest in tourism to Glasgow. Before the Garden festival in 1988 and the city of culture in 1990 transformed the image of the city, its stubborn associations were with deprivation and slum clearances – captured in Bert Hardy’s indelible postwar black-and-whites of street urchins in the Gorbals.

A new book of Corrance’s pictures from the 1970s and 1980s doesn’t ignore the poverty of parts of the city, but focuses, as here, on its life-loving character. Corrance, who grew up outside Inverness, had worked for a couple of years as a photographer in Sydney, Australia in the 1960s and tried to bring some of that light and colour home. “I hate snotty-nosed pictures of street kids,” he says. “That wasn’t the reality. Those tenement streets had a bad name, but as buildings, the Glasgow tenement was one of the finest designs ever made for city living. And they just pulled most of them down. Up until six years ago I lived in one, and it was great.”

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