A journey through the negatives

29th March 2014
That title could be a bold statement of intent... like I was about to have a right good moan about something... but it's about film negatives.
I've been digging out a lot of my old 35mm negatives from (mostly) the 1980's and thought a blog about some of the stories might be of interest - mainly to me lol.

I'm sorry if I've left some scratches and dust spots in these old things, but they are part of the photos' histories now. Yeah - I should have looked after them better, but alas... I didn't.

All shots were captured on manual focus, fixed ISO film (obviously) and all black and white's developed by my own fair hand. Some were shot on the free colour films you'd get when you got prints made at the Chemists, I always had bags of these, and would use them when I was skint - sometimes even still developing them in black & white chems, to get the photos out quick.

Looking back through the shots, especially some of them that never made it to print, as some whole shoots were just to get a poster photo for a gig, there were many emotions poked.

I can almost feel the moment a lot of these pictures were taken, remembering the actions of people around before, during and after the shutter was activated.

There's no real cohesion to what I've put together here, this is more of a mixed page photo album of selected highlights of a few bands and moments I was luck enough to be around with good friends.

A few of the people in these photos are no longer with us, so it is even more special to see them once more, posing for me like it was earlier today.

I can't remember if it was Tommy or Shamey that took this one with me in it. But it's a great photo - one of the last taken of Richard (third from left) who was killed in a terrible road crash in 1984... but this kind of sums up how I felt in these early days of taking band pics for Rebel Youth... I was completely out of place with these rockers... we didn't mix together, in fact at the time I didn't even like most of the folk in this photo. But in saying that, at school , although Richard was younger than me... we almost started our own band together... and in later years Jock in the red shirt joined Setting Sons, getting back playing again with our band's original drummer Shamey, who I ended up very close with as well.

So that's how I started out on my path of "people" photography, which has taken me to today's weddings. I enjoy landscape work , but people add that unique element to photos. You can plan the shot all you want, but it will always be different to what you started out shooting.
Rebel Youth, Dunbar's ace card band of the time (so they told me) got me to do photo shoots for them, and I awkwardly went along with it. Sadly over the years most of the negatives from the other shoots are long lost/borrowed/destroyed.

Every band has one or two members who struggle to keep the serious look going, and at least one who can hold it out - and get annoyed by the lack of effort on the gigglers... part of the great fun of people photography.... you can pick who's who in these two shots :)

Was good for me to be around these guys though... having make-shift rehearsals in the basement of the now gone Bellevue Hotel. I always say rehearsals nowadays instead of practise. Shamey told me off for that when I started playing bass in Setting Sons... "Good bands rehearse, they don't practise!"

A brief "career" in the RAF, put my rock and roll life on hold, but when I came home very shortly afterwards, I was picked up by another band ... UTB which stood for something long and unspellable, but featured guys I knew a bit better, in fact one was a good mate - drummer Andy. Singer/guitarist Keith later became another founder of Setting Sons, while bass player Ally Combe just became a good friend who now collects guitars for when the zombie apocolypse comes, and they need someone with an American Strat.

I got hooked into UTB quite seriously doing all their grunt work for them - which later led to me finding out years later I was actually their manager. That just meant I got to share in all their expenses.

The picture in the middle - you can see the giggles starting... and on the right , with me becoming one of Keith's other bass players - I know that look. I got it a lot from Keith and Greig. The look of "What note are you playing?"

Another local band who were initially out of my circle - New Horizon asked me to do a shoot for PR , posters and the likes. I knew the guitarist fairly well, in fact Greig was the other original member of Setting Sons in later years. A few years later I started seeing his wee sister Ali - we've been married 24 years now. Greig's no longer with us either I'm afraid - but never a day goes by without a thought for him.

New Horizon

The really odd thing about looking at the New Horizon shoot is I still feel that I didn't want to be there. A that time I was the UTB PR guy and felt any other stuff I did would hamper their march to obvious stardom, taking me with them... seeing as Rebel Youth didn't meet those targets :)

Was speaking to singer Gary the other day actually - he doesn't do computers at all , so I hope someone shows him these some day soon :)

New Horizon's drummer became Setting Sons drummer for a wee while too. Willie is in a lot of our great wee videos & recordings.

Gary Wishart singer - New Horizon.

About this time - 1985 - Live Aid happened and the world was caught up in the fantastic spectacle of all these big top bands coming together for the greater good. So we organised one of these benefits in Dunbar.
We booked the Vic Ballroom and I did a shoot with my fave model of the time Sam (Gary McLaren), and with clever use of tipex and black markers made some of these shots into posters about Africa and our "Live Aid Dunbar Style" gig.
Loads of bands turned up.... a great crowd came along and I have a wee drop of the photos left...

This one is still one of my all time favourite pictures. It's by no way perfect, If I could go back in time I'd change a few things, but we were just young daft lads and Sam pulled a good one out the bag here.
It looks like he's hiding stuff in his pockets - but the reality is - he probably was as we were promoting a UTB gig for March 7th and Sam had the spray paint. If you go into that we concrete hut at John Muir today - you can just about still make out that day's green & red graffiti.

The Vic crowd. A few very well known coupons going around there...

The people uniqueness at it's best! Jock - before the curtain goes up at the Vic, spots me stage right and gives me a rock and roll blast :)
I think we take modern cameras for granted with auto-focus and all their gadgets. Now-a-days this photo would be binned for inaccuracies but I love it. I'd have guessed how far to turn the end of the lens to focus as I spun the camera towards Jock to meet his pose and hope for the best.

Keith from UTB waits nervously at the sides... because I'd set the gig up - UTB got a nice late slot :) You're welcome guys.

And from stage left... New Horizon's Ali Denholm gives me a hearty wave before their curtain raise :)

We went for the big impact curtain up and down for that gig.
It also takes a certain amount of skill to vickie someone while keeping your bass pick between your fingers.

So there have been many a mirror flip in many a life. Not all band stuff... but it's what really got me into taking pictures of people. I still use a lot of the techniques and ideas in my wedding photography. No least the fun part where you get the giggling and interaction of people. At a wedding - taking a picture late on of the bride and her pals, or the groom and his. Take the photo they ask for, tell them you've got it and just wait a few seconds, something better always happens. That's the picture to get.

I'm putting some photos together about that for another blog actually.
But here in my film blog here's another blast of random neggie scans...

TK Dyce (you can see his moniker on some of the amps on stage in The Vic). Did his wedding not that long ago :)

I realise that sometimes it might seem like I'm be having a go at "how easy it is nowadays" ...I don't mean it to come out like that. But back in those days there was no internet. If you wanted to learn about something - you had to find someone that had done it before you - or you went to the library and got a book.
I read somewhere about infrared film - I'm sure I heard Anton Corbijn (U2's photographer) had used it. So I got some Kodak IR film. Had no idea what to do with it so just plodded on as normal - developed it in my usual chemicals and expected amazingly fantastic photos... ach.... maybe next time lol. I only found out years later that you have to re-focus for IR - in fact many lenses back then had a mark for IR focusing. Anyway - here's some shots with Kodak IR film and bits of UTB.... I say bits, as I think Comby was grounded that day.

A nice effect - easily replicated on a PC or Mac nowadays mind.

So my quest goes on - raiding my own , and my mum & dad's loft on the hope of finding that first Rebel Youth shoot in the car scrap yard... or the oodles of other stuff shot through the years...

I'm still shooting film. Got a few Canon & Nikon 35mm set-ups, my fave now being a Canon A1 - a camera I always desired during my younger days. The photos it produces are extremely low quality compared to what a modern digi point and click camera will produce. But every shot has more magic packed in than any digital camera can achieve.

Your's truly....

Yip, me with the guys taken by... the guys I suppose... I'm sure I brought boxing boots as a fashion thing to East Lothian, but they never took on... my red ones were ace.... honest !

Shamey - around 1999

So without being overly sad, I'm dedicating this blog to Shamey Cairns, a great friend, confidante and amazing musician.
I mentioned earlier about missing a few people, but I want to give this to Shambles , as he was there from the beginning when I was taking photos...

Shamey - around 1983

Thanks for looking in.... check in for more...


PS Pennie Smith & Jill Furmanovsky.... if you're ever too busy for a shoot...

PS ... I've a few more wee bits 'n bobs to add to this. So please keep checking in.



Photo comment By SheonCairns: I'm sniffling way here, Niff! That is a really nice photo from '83 - in fact they're all super x
Photo comment By Sheon: I meant the later photo '99. I probably gave him a rollicking for the hair in the earlier one!x
Photo comment By Niffy: I'lll get you copies of all these and others Sheon. x
Photo comment By Mags Black: Graham these are fantastic, just perfect to dedicate to shamey. Lots of familiar faces in there :-)
Photo comment By Jude Chalmers: Thanks for sharing, Brought back so many memories. Slightly blubbing away here. :)
Photo comment By Yvonne: Fantastic photos Niffy, it's lovely for fab memories to be rekindled in this this way Thanks for sharing these. Xx
Photo comment By Jake Quinn: Absolutely fantastic blog niffy.hope to bump into you one day,buy you a pint and say thanx for the memories.god love shamey,Greig&richard,RIP.
Photo comment By Gail: W.O.W. can't stop looking at this. Well done you!
Photo comment By Iby Robertson: This was the best couple of hours I've spent for a long time , Great to see so many faces , that brought back so many memories , how lucky I have been to had so many young friends who were so talented . Thanks Niffy , I'm due you one .
Photo comment By George Hannah: Great blog, I love the shot of the "gog". Brings back so many memories.
Photo comment By Marty Paterson: Unreal photo,s got love growing up in 'Sunny Dunny',great memories cheers Niffy your a legend.
Photo comment By Douglas Turnbull: Outstanding photos and great memories to be cherished.
Photo comment By Eileen Henderson: Spent great summers in dunbar in the late 80s fantastic bands

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