It began as a modest photography workshop in a Glasgow housing scheme. Fifteen years later, Cranhill Arts Project is showing
exhibition. Kathleen Morgan discovers an impressive track record.
Until recently it was a waterbed shop near Glasgow‘s Trongate. Every now and then, some punter still wanders in, asking for a bed to make waves on. They are rarely disappointed. although there is not a rubber mattress in sight. This is Cranhill Arts Gallery, venue for The Cranhill Connection. a retrospective photographic exhibition tracing the success of an arts project based in Glasgow‘s east end.
Lining the gallery walls in Glasgow's King Street are images by photographers who literally developed their craft — and often. their livelihood — in the darkroom of a small photography workshop run by Cranhill Arts Project. It all began ﬁfteen years ago in the dayroom of a block of Cranhill ﬂats. The aim was to provide the community of Greater Easterhouse with photographic and screen printing facilities. More recently, Cranhill Arts has used city centre gallery space to showcase some of the talent
PHOTOGRAPHY ‘ I
what it is made of in a retrospective :
- discovered in some of Glasgow‘s most deprived, r
! commitment of those who discovered it. exploited it
peripheral estates. The project's success has been built on the
and went back to teach others their skills. Cranhill‘s photography organiser Chris Nicoletti is one of them. Originally from Cranhill. the 42—year-old worked for eighteen years as a roads construction worker in and around Glasgow. After discovering the classes at the arts project, he decided to commit himselfto building a career as a photographer. It was a brave move. but one that allowed him to leave ajob that was ruining his health.
mm” 1 e
Looal here: the defiant mooo or Glasgow councillor and leader or Scottish Militant, Tom Sheridan. !
photographed by Brian Anderson.
Survivors: Chris Nicoletti's images from Zagreb refugee camps provide the tough edge to the Cranhill Arts exhibition.
‘1 made a decision in I990 to make a career out of photography,‘ he says. ‘I was suffering ill health — asthma — from doing that job. I would have stayed in it a lot longer ifl didn‘t have this.‘
He speaks with quiet pride of Cranhill Arts Project and its role in a community blighted by unemployment. ‘People from the schemes seem to have a deﬁnite lack of self esteem and self confidence,‘ he says. ‘Fora start. they think they won‘t be able to do photography. that it's too technical. Then they think it‘s poncey — there's a macho thing about it. Once you show them how easy it is. they‘re away.
‘l've always been quite capable of doing what I wanted to do, but Cranhill Ans definitely does help. It shows you can do other things at a later stage in life.’
His experience at Cranhill Arts gave Nicoletti the confidence to travel into the heart of a war zone to photograph the Bosnian refugee camps of Zagreb. The images he snatched during just a few hours‘ work are some of the more sobering displayed in The Cranhill Connection. The tired. war-weary faces of survivors stare into Nieoletti‘s lens in startling black and white photographs. It was sheer determination that got Nicoletti to Zagreb — the bus he and a colleague were driving repeatedly broke down and they faced administrative barriers when they ﬁnally reached the camps. The effort paid off.
Others who beneﬁtted from Cranhill Arts’ free photography classes and whose work is featured in the exhibition are Scotland on Sunday photographer Robert Perry. BBC Scotland stills photographer Charlie Crawford and commercial photographer lan Venant. A former mechanical engineer who left school at sixteen and was laid off at 23, Venart now runs his own business, concentrating on portraits and social photography. He also takes classes, passing on the skills he learned from a successful project with its feet still planted firmly on the ground.
The Cranhill Connection is at Cranhill Arts Project. Glasgow until 16 April.
.0 The List 24 Mar-6 Apr 1995