The Arts – Harry Papadopoulos

Harry Papadopoulos

Photographer who captured the sound and vision Of Young Britain

Harry Papadopoulos was born in Garelochhead, the son of a Scots mother and Greek-Cypriot father, in 1954. Having moved from the Helensburgh area, he spent his teen years in Glasgow, attending Penilee Secondary School before graduating from Paisley College of Technology with a BSc. in electrical engineering. In 1976, Harry attended Jordanhill College and became a teacher of maths and physics.

A self-taught photographer, he began his photo career by standing outside the Glasgow Apollo, selling to that night’s gig goers, newly-developed images – black and white 10 x 8 prints for the sum of fifty pence – taken at the bands’ Edinburgh concerts the night before.

The quality of his pictures coupled with his guerrilla style of snapping, led Harry to London, where he soon came to the attention of the main stream music press.

Harry worked for the New Musical Express and Sounds from 1979 – 1984, at the height of the new wave music explosion. During this period, Harry’s photographs covered virtually every major band of the period from Blondie, David Bowie, Devo , Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Clash, The Specials and Suicide and even Wham!. Many of his images becoming iconic cover images. And of course he captured the vibrant music scene of his native Scotland where he shot Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, The Bluebells, Josef K, The Associates and Altered Images. Harry thus became one of the first few photographers to capture the fey arrogance of Edwyn Collins and his Postcard cohorts, and subsequently appeared in the 1984 Derek Jarman video for Orange Juice’s ‘What Presence’.

Harry became more than a press photographer to many of his compatriots. His Kensal Rise flat became a social hub and crash pad for many of the Scottish bands performing in the capital.

Following his stint on the music press, Harry became editor of Marvel Comics publications and was responsible for titles such as Care Bears, Flintstones, and Star Trek, before moving to web design.

Unfortunately in August 2002 Harry suffered a brain aneurysm and returned to Glasgow in February 2006.

And this is where the story of Harry ended, had it not been for the hiring of an electrician by Ken McCLuskey of the Bluebells. The electrician was Harry’s brother Jimmy and he’d been hired to rewire Ken’s Glasgow West End Flat. Having lost contact some twenty years previous, Ken arranged to visit Harry and found a goldmine of over 3,000 neglected negatives.

Recognising the cultural significance of the collection, McCluskey set about saving them, scanning them with a hand-held digital converter. “It was quite painstaking but it was exciting too,” he recalled. Alter “One minute you’d find a Joy Division picture, the next it’d be Orange Juice or Howard Devoto.”
McCluskey estimated that it took him about eight months to scan the majority of shots, before he approached the director of Street Level gallery Malcolm Dickson, about the archive. The resultant collaboration led to the major Exhibition ‘What Presence’ which ran from 17th December 2011 –
25th February 2012. The exhibition now tours.

In April 2013, the book What Presence! was launched at Glasgow’s Aye Write festival held in the Mitchell Library. The book features many of Harry’s most iconic images together with contributions from many of the subjects.
Clare Grogan, Altered Images: “Harry was ever present on the scene. He was a true observer and communicated by taking pictures. “At the time, we didn’t think that much about the impact of Harry’s work.

Roddy Frame, Aztec Camera: “I first met Harry in 1981 when I went to London with Alan Horne on a guitar hunt. I was 17, and Harry was kind and encouraging. He seemed to have a very casual attitude to photography. I found out later that he would work until dawn, choosing the right shots and perfecting the prints.”

Peter Capaldi – “The alternative Glasgow scene of the late 1970s and early 80s was a world of energy and bristling creativity. Even the nihilists and anarchists had to figure out what to wear and what chords to play. It was a time when you had to be in a band. Or make a fanzine. Or do something. And, thankfully for us, Harry chose to turn his lens on this world. It’s no surprise he himself was an example of the kind of artfulness and energy his pictures so vividly capture. Of course, Harry soon graduated to the big bands and the proper music press but it’s his pictures of the bubbling Glasgow scene that get me most because I was there, hustling and begging for a gig like everyone else, and watching while others soared.”

It is hoped that the commercial interest in Harry’s photo legacy will assist him by providing the care that he now requires.

Image of ‘Harry Papadopoulos in New York’ ©Harry Papadopoulos / Street Level Photoworks and used with permission

Biography references:

  • A life behind the lens – Nicola Meighan, The Sunday Herald, December 2011
  • Peter Capaldi, Daily Record, March 2013
  • Altered Images, Beverley Lyons, The Daily Record, April 2013