Any one of them could spark a memory, or a feeling. The old lady tucking into a wafer in the University Café. The remnants of the ruined dairy just before it disappeared forever.

Or the be-aproned housewife, hair perfect, wielding her tongs over her toploader washing machine. It’s the story, in black and white, of a city and the people who live in it. It is the story of how they change – and stay the same.

The man who’s telling the story, through pictures, is the Glasgow photographer Alan Dimmick who’s been obsessively taking photographs since he bought his first camera in 1977 when he was a teenager. Since then he’s taken some 90,000 pictures over 40 years and it’s been a massive, and ground-breaking, challenge. “I guess now with mobile phones it’s not that uncommon to take photographs of everything,” he says, “but it was in the 1970s.”

Some of Alan’s favourite pictures have now gone on show in the city in an unusual way: they’re out on the street, on walls, in shop windows, wherever people can seem them. Many of the photographs are also on display close to where they were taken, in many cases some four decades ago.

The one of the housewife with her toploader (it’s Alan’s mum by the way) is on show in Anniesland, where Alan grew up.

For Alan, the new exhibition is social history and cultural history but it’s personal too. The pictures also demonstrate the diversity and changeability of the city. There are buildings that disappeared and the buildings that replaced them.

There’s the lively arts scene – on stage and on the street. And there are personal portraits that will be familiar to anyone who grew up in Glasgow or knows it well.

Here, Alan choses eight pictures from the 42 that have gone on show. How many of them will spark a memory for you?

University Café

Anyone who knows Glasgow knows The University Café and it hasn’t really changed much since this picture was taken in 1984. Get up close to it and you notice the small things: the 70s wallpaper, the lady’s string of pearls and you can even read some of the menu (chicken and chips seems to have been the special of the day).

“You really notice the lady’s pearls and the way she’s getting into that wafer,” says Alan. “But in the window behind there’s another old lady - you can see a reflection of her. The café hasn’t really changed that much at all since the picture was taken. The chairs have changed and the 70s wallpaper but not hugely.”

Alan also remembers clearly where he was when he took the picture. “I took it when I lived at No 2 Byres Road, the very first road at Partick Cross,” says Alan. “I used to photograph out of the window a lot there and I was walking up and down Byres Road a lot and I would’ve popped into the café. It’s sad: during the war, they had their windows smashed because they were Italian even though the son was away fighting for the British. These knee-jerk reactions happened a lot during the war.”


“We put this picture up in Anniesland in an estate agent’s window and within a minute we had queues of people looking at it,” says Alan. “Even more strange than that, I heard someone say ‘that’s Mrs Dimmick’ – they remembered mum and people wanted to talk about toploaders. It shows you the power of social history.”

Taking pictures of his parents such as this one, which was taken in 1979, was one of the ways Alan got into photography when he was growing up in a tenement on Great Western Road in Glasgow in the 60s and 70s. “I was using my parents initially as models,” he says, “And both mum and dad liked to get their photos taken. Every time I show a photograph of mum, people totally connect with her and will say ‘I remember your mum going to the shops because of her hair’. Dad worked at Knightswood bus garage, painting trams.”

Another reason people (of a certain age) particularly love this picture is it reminds them of what it was like before automatic washing machines. “If my mum had to wash anything big, she would just fill the bath,” says Alan. “But I remember her getting a new washing machine maybe a year after this picture was taken and it was smaller and a twin tub.” Before that, it was toploader and tongs all the way. “The thing I really remember about that machine is the noise and smell,” says Alan. “It’s quite a poignant picture for me – my mum died about 15 years ago.”

Minerva Street toilets

There was a time when public toilets were common around Glasgow and some of them were architecturally rather fine. However, by the 1990s, they were starting to be closed down and boarded up, like this underground loo in Minerva Street.

“I took that picture as a document when the toilets were still open,” says Alan. “And even now there must be about four or five of them even today across the city that are all boarded over and you wonder what they’re like underneath.

“Public toilets are weird because they don’t really exist anymore. This one is at the corner of Finnieston near a big PC World. It has hanging baskets on it now but the railings are still there. I think it closed not long after I took the picture in 1979.”

Mural, Garnethill

Glasgow is the city of murals – wander round the streets and it won’t be long before you encounter the end of a tenement or other building that an artist has made their own and this one in Garnethill, by the Polish/Scottish artist John Kraska, was among the first.

“When I took that picture in 1980, the mural was only one year old and it was an important project,” says Alan. “Kraska found himself living in Garnethill in the early 70s and realised that the city council had plans at that time to wipe out a lot of tenements and he was worried about it. So he got money from the council and the Arts Council, as it was called then, to do these murals and he did two and a mosaic. He wanted to bring people’s attention to the beauty of tenements and try to prevent them being pulled down

“The mural I photographed is now gone or at least stuck against a newbuild. It’s about heaven and earth – one side is heaven, astronomy and astrology, and the other is more about the earth. I liked it and I liked the light in the morning. And it was where I used to meet my girlfriend!”

Dairy, Crow Road

“I went to school near there,” says Alan. “It’s at Broomhill just at the top of Crow Road. It was Sloan’s Dairy – we used to call it the ice-cream factory when I was wee. It’s an art deco building – during the war, it was completely painted in the most amazing camouflage paint and then it became derelict when I was in primary school and some of the ‘bad boys’ used to break and play around.

“When I took the picture in 1979 - I would have been around 17 or 18 – the building seemed to almost implode and then the month after that, it was wiped away and there’s now a G12 sorting office on the site. It looked almost natural, the collapse, but I suspect it was the first day of demolition.

“Even at 17, I was quite into art deco. It stood out that building – it’s of an age that people who are maybe mid-50s just remember it.

“Anyone younger than that, won’t have a clue.”

The M8

For Alan, this picture of West Graham Street under the M8 is a reminder of how much this particular part of Glasgow changed –then stayed the same.

“People forget what the M8 did to the city,” says Alan. “Other cities in Britain thought Glasgow was insane cutting through it. The Grand Hotel was wiped away and in a summer of ‘69 there was a hole about the size of five football pitches and also about 100ft deep and it basically sliced the city.”

However, what strikes Alan now when he walks around the Charing Cross area is how much has stayed the same since the ‘60s. “I’ve been finding little underpasses that were designed in 1969 that I didn’t know existed,” he says. “They take you from one street to another but they’re all overgrown and hardly anyone uses them.

“This picture was taken in 1998. There was an art gallery in the High Street that initiated a prize for public art sculpture and the lines on the ground were an installation by the artist Roddy Mathieson.

“The amazing thing is that up until maybe about two years ago it was still there – for some reason the council never painted over it.”

Scottish Ballet, Woodlands

“I like the Woodlands area which at the time this picture was taken in 1982, was very multi-cultural and even today it still has the same feel to it,” says Alan. “Some of the pubs might have been slightly poshed up and some of the early Victorian tenements have been taken away, but it’s not that different when you walk through. Some of the streets behind the petrol station, there were brothels and there would be a madam in her sixties and women hanging out of the windows like some scene from Victorian Paris.”

The picture Alan took was of Scottish Ballet’s rehearsal space in West Princes Street. “The guy in the photograph was the lead ballet dancer and he was quite a prima donna because after about five exposures the little click of my shutter annoyed him so much that he stormed off and that was the end of it.”

Solar eclipse

Where were you when it happened? It was August 11, 1999, and it was the first total solar eclipse visible in the UK since June 29, 1927. Although it was most visible in the south of England, you could still see the effect in Scotland and this picture is pof eople looking out for it in the centre of Glasgow.

“I’d never been in a position to see an eclipse that was going to be impressive,” says Alan. “I wanted to take some photographs of it and I was in Buchanan Street and it’s part of a series of three or four. It’s a strong image because I was so close to the girl. A lot of people in Buchanan Street were kneeling and looking at windows because everyone was told not to look directly at it and these special specs were handed out. What was amazing was when the light dropped, it was pretty impressive. Everyone was quite excited.”

The street exhibition of Alan Dimmick’s work, which was facilitated by Martin Gray of Jack Arts, is on now. For more of Alan’s pictures, see or Instagram @alandimmick