Oscar Marzaroli: Photographer's first major show in 30 years captures social change in Glasgow

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He captured the city and its people with truth and sensitivity, and now his works are coming home to the streets that inspired him the most.

Now, the work of late photographer Oscar Marzaroli will go on show at Street Level Photo Works in Glasgow next month, the first major exhibition of his images in more than 30 years.

Expectation, Celtic End, Cup Final, Hampden Park, 1963. PIC: Courtesy of Oscar Marzaroli Collection.

Expectation, Celtic End, Cup Final, Hampden Park, 1963. PIC: Courtesy of Oscar Marzaroli Collection.

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Marzaroli is best known for tracking social change in Glasgow from the 1950s through to the 1980s, when he captured everyday people and places with themes of community, friendship and hardship coming through his work.

His landscapes of the industrial city bathed in glimmers of light help to evoke a place like no other. His focus on children and young people, often captured in slum settings, offered a simple hope amid the urban struggles of the day.

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Malcolm Dickson, gallery director, said it was time that Marzaroli gained international recognition for his work, with the photographer to Glasgow and Scotland what Bruce Dickson is to New York and Helga Paris to East Berlin.

Earlier this year, more than 50,000 photographs taken by Marzaroli, who died in 1988 aged 55, were donated to Glasgow Caledonian University by his family.

Mr Dickson said: "We are thrilled to be working with the family of Oscar and with Glasgow Caledonian University in making this exhibition happen by one of Scotland’s finest social documentary photographers of the post war period.

"Very much rooted in Glasgow, this gave him a special relationship with the subject matter, creating his images from an insiders viewpoint, with great sensitivity and candour.

"His work is vast in number and it’s now time he was recognised internationally.

"It’s fitting that this is happening in the year of the gallery’s 30th Anniversary and that new audiences can see some of his finest work firsthand."

Marzaroli was born in La Spezia in north west Italy in 1933 and moved to Garnethill in Glasgow with his family when aged just two.

As a teenager, he fought ill health and spent a year in Kingussie Sanatorium with TB. Not long after he got well again, he was in a motorcycle accident.

He went on to work as a freelance photojournalist in Stockholm and London and spent time touring Europe before returning to Glasgow where he set up the photographic studio Studio 59 and married Anne Connelly, with whom he had three daughters – Marie Claire, Nicola and Lisa Jane.

In 1967, Marzaroli co-founded Ogam films with two friends with the company commissioned by the Highlands and Islands Development Board to make over 69 short films on the changing face of life in the north.

His photographic work reached a wide audience in the 1980s when pop band Deacon Blue used two of his images on their record covers.

The cover of their debut album, Raintown, was taken by Marzaroli and captured a rainy day over Glasgow’s west end with the Finnieston Crane in the background.

His famous image of Castlemilk Boys illustrated their single, Chocolate Girl.

Singer Ricky Ross recently launched a fundraiser at Glasgow Caledonian Univeristy to help preserve and digitise the Oscar Marzaroli Collection.

Then, Ross told the audience: "Oscar’s work is part of Scotland’s social history. I got in touch with Oscar after I became fascinated with his work, and he ended up coming out with us and shooting some photographs for our first Deacon Blue album in different locations.

"I’d told him about the idea of Raintown and he called me one day to say there was a picture he thought suited it. It’s the one of the sunshine coming through the clouds.

"We loved it and our music from that period has been linked to Oscar ever since."

Oscar Marzaroli is at Street Level Photoworks, Trongate 103, from December 7 to March 15.

The Castlemilk Lads, 1963. PIC: Courtesy of Oscar Marzaroli Collection.

The Castlemilk Lads, 1963. PIC: Courtesy of Oscar Marzaroli Collection.