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Martin Singleton

Cameraman

Cameraman

Born: November 10, 1947; Died: March 11, 2014

MARTIN Ferguson Singleton, who has died aged 66, was one of Scotland's most respected freelance cameramen.

He was the grandson of Richard Singleton, a cinema pioneer who in 1910 established an early film theatre at the Burnbank Halls in Hamilton. Richard's sons, George and Vincent - who was Martin's father - continued in the field, establishing Singleton Cinemas, followed by the Vogue cinema chain and, lastly, Glasgow's celebrated art house cinema, the Cosmo, now the GFT.

Martin often reminisced to friends that it was his childhood experience helping out in the projection room of the Cosmo that began a life-long fascination with photography, the moving image and cameras.

Following secondary education at Rutherglen Academy, where he made lifelong friends, his career direction was set when, at 18, he became a 'gofer' to Glasgow film makers, Eddie McConnell and Lawrence Henson, in their company IFA.

Quickly rising to assistant cameraman, he cut his professional teeth, alongside Bill Forsyth, filming Saturday afternoon football matches all in the days of film and pre-video when processing allowed for no errors and little time.

In 1967, aged 21, he moved to London to work for Anvil films and further his craft in the capital's expanding television and film industry. Returning to Glasgow in 1969, he established Ogam Films with partner Oscar Marzaroli, which, over some ten years and through more than 70 commissions, from agencies such as Films of Scotland and Highlands and Islands Development Board, documented a fascinating record of social, cultural and environmental change in Scotland.

In 1980, Ogam dissolved as a partnership and Martin Singleton went on to consolidate a career as a freelance director of photography, travelling extensively, filming in the Arctic Circle, India, the Far East, Eastern Europe and North America and shooting a vast and diverse range of productions for cinema and television, many of which received international awards.

These included Murdo, Metagama Productions for BBC; Tickets For The Zoo, a drama documentary acclaimed Best Film at the 1st Celtic Film Festival; and Busby, Stein & Shankly, The Football Men, a film drama with Cormorant Films for Channel 4, triple award winning at Annonay, Galway and Chicago film festivals.

Over 45 years in the business, his work covered an extensive range of productions.

Some of the most memorable moments of his career included shooting natural history programmes: - he filmed the arctic tern in Spitsbergen for Trials of Life with Sir David Attenborough, lemurs in Madagascar with David Bellamy and worked across ­Scotland with Operation Survival, a series produced by Sally Wilson, ­covering Scottish people, flora and fauna.

Some notable social documentaries included Pioneers of Socialism (Skyline Productions for Channel 4), Am Posadh Hiortach, a BBC2 drama documentary about St Kilda and the story of its former inhabitants, Pesce e Patate, by Move On Up, an evocative glimpse into the life of Scots Italians torn between two cultures, and many in-depth investigations for ­Panorama with producer Murdoch Rodgers.

He had a great passion for music of all genres and relished working at both home and abroad on live music productions.

A selection of his work in this area includes Birds of Paradise by Carla Bley, creating a new composition for Glasgow Jazz Festival, and filming artists from Celtic Connections, Transatlantic Sessions, Womad Festival with Capercaillie and the rock documentary, Mr Rock & Roll about celebrated Rock Managers in the UK and America.

His sense of composition and framing, steadiness of hand and ability to squeeze the best out of the shot made him a hugely popular and respected figure in the industry and his humour, warm personality and breadth of knowledge made him excellent company, be that as a member of the crew or as a social companion.

He may have viewed much of the world through a lens but this never restricted his ability to ­interact and engage with those he observed.

Most recently, his work was closer to home, in the Western Isles for Mac TV and BBC Alba, often with his longstanding friend and film-maker Don Coutts who has paid heartfelt tribute to Martin as "a man without guile, always interested in the subjects he filmed, always charming and warm to the people that we met on our travels. He was a genuinely, lovely human being".

In 1974, he married Margaret Blain who energised his work and social life through their many shared interests and contacts. They had a wide circle of friends and neighbours to whom he gave generously of his time, photographing and recording their various celebrations, shared holidays and gatherings.

His generosity extended, also, to filming on behalf of a local mental health charity.

He died suddenly and unexpectedly, at home in his sleep, on the cusp of embracing a real retirement.

He is survived by his wife Maggie, children Simon and Kyla, grandson Kieran, sister Mary and brother Richard.

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