Trainspotting at 25: Classic scenes shown then and now

A generation on from the release of the original Trainspotting, it seems a good time to reflect on how Edinburgh has changed in the years since.

By David McLean
Monday, 22nd February 2021, 2:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 10:18 am

Ahead of the release of T2 Trainspotting four years ago, photographer and avid film fan Neil Guthrie took to the streets of Edinburgh to recreate key scenes featured in Danny Boyle’s 1996 original.

Inspired after seeing recreations of the first movie in the sequel, Neil said: “I noticed they had a few new scenes that were filmed on Calton Road, where part of the original film was filmed.

“It gave me the idea of taking a few photos myself at exactly the same position, to create a composite image using stills to show both past and present.

“I wasn’t sure how well they would match up, since the film crew would have used different cameras and lenses, but I thought it would be interesting to give it a try.”

There are five photos in the short series, all of them taken from the famous sequence in which lead characters Renton and Spud are chased through central Edinburgh having shoplifted from John Menzies in Princes Street.

Things have changed quite a bit in Edinburgh since the scenes were filmed back in 1995. The aforementioned John Menzies is now a Next clothing store, and the old Leith Street footbridge seen in the background Calton Road shots has since been removed, replaced and removed again.

Rather than using image manipulation software, Neil decided to implement a more traditional method, matching up the scenes with his smartphone and then capturing the results.

The idea to use a smartphone seemed appropriate to Neil after hearing Mark Renton’s updated “Choose life...” monologue in the sequel’s trailer, which makes mention of 21st century technology: “I really liked the new ‘Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram...’ part where they’re running down Calton Road and under the bridge because it showed how much things have changed in the years since the original film was released.

“I had the idea of having a freeze-frame of the original film on my phone, lining it up with the real bridge and then taking a photo of them both. It took quite a bit of experimentation to work out how to get everything to align, and how to get the right exposure and focus on the camera, but I soon got the hang of it.

“The camera was just hand-held. It would have been easier to use a tripod but I liked the idea of using as little equipment as possible.

“I don’t have any plans to create any more for the original Trainspotting, but I might just be back in 20 years’ time to take some similar ones for T2!”

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