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Oscar Marzaroli


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Oscar Marzaroli
Street Level Photoworks
10th September - 20th December 2020.

Oscar Marzaroli is arguably Scotland’s most notable documentary photographer. His photographs and films of Glasgow from the 1950s through to the 1980s captured a period of enormous change with images of people going about their lives in the city, at work and at leisure.

Many of the black and white images depict children playing in the streets, and many simply capture the city in bygone days. Some of his most well known images detail Glasgow's Gorbals community in the 1960s. He was a photographer of great ability who captured the nature of the city and people with sensitivity and empathy. Whilst many of Marzaroli’s photographs of Glasgow are instantly recognisable, such as ‘The Castlemilk Lads’ or ‘The Golden Haired Lass’, Marzaroli worked all over Scotland and further afield as a photographer and filmmaker. A range of this subject matter is embraced in this exhibition. 

Through portraits and landscapes, Marzaroli captured Scotland during an exceptional time when city slums were being cleared to make way for new social housing. It is said his images perfectly encapsulate the atmosphere surrounding those fundamental shifts in society. 

In the 1980s, his work was brought to a new audience when the band Deacon Blue used his images of the city and its people on their record covers. The cover of their debut album, Raintown, was taken by Marzaroli and depicted a rainy day over Glasgow's west end with the Finnieston Crane in the background. His death on 26 August 1988, at the age of 55, left a huge body of work - more than 50,000 photographs taken by him have recently been donated to Glasgow Caledonian University in August 2019. Street Level has worked with the family and GCU in bringing the work to even wider public recognition.

Oscar Marzaroli was born in Castiglione, La Spezia, Italy in 1933. He moved to Glasgow with his family in 1935 where they settled in Garnethill. Between 1955 and 1959 Marzaroli worked as a freelance photojournalist in Stockholm and London, and spent time touring Europe. Upon his return to Glasgow in 1959 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 Mike Pavett and Allan & Martin Singleton. During the early 1970s Ogam films were commissioned by the Highlands and Islands Development Board to make over 69 high-quality short films relating to the changing face of life in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. In 1983 Marzaroli was a major contributor to the Noise and Smoky Breath - An Illustrated Anthology of Glasgow Poems, 1900-83 published by the Third Eye Centre, which was followed by his solo show One Man’s World: Photographs 1955 – 84 at the Third Eye Centre in 1984. A number of books have subsequently been published, including Shades of Grey (1989), Shades of Scotland (1989), Glasgow's People (1993) and Waiting for the Magic (2013).

All Images: © Oscar Marzaroli / The Marzaroli Collection
Banner Image: The Castlemilk Lads, 1963
Left Image: Oscar Marzaroli, Aberdeen, Summer 1960

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