Celebrated photographer Oscar Marzaroli's archive is donated to GCU

Mon, 26 Aug 2019 22:44:00 BST

A priceless photography archive containing iconic Scottish images taken by the celebrated photographer Oscar Marzaroli has been donated by his family to Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU). 

His photographs documenting the lives of ordinary people in the Gorbals became synonymous with 1960’s Glasgow. On the 31st anniversary of his death, a fundraising campaign to enable the entire collection of around 50,000 images to be made freely available online has been launched. A selection of original prints developed by Oscar himself will be sold to the highest bidders in an online auction, which is now open and runs until next Thursday, 5 September.

Italian-born Oscar moved to Scotland at the age of two. Through portraits and landscapes, he captured Scotland and its people at a time of great social change in the 50s, 60s and 70s.  It was an exceptional time when city slums were being cleared to make way for new social housing and his images perfectly encapsulate the atmosphere surrounding those fundamental shifts in society. His work reached a wide audience in the 1980s when Scottish pop band Deacon Blue famously used his images on the sleeves of their hit records. His untimely death in 1988, at the age of 55, left a huge body of work.

“We are thrilled our father’s archive has found a permanent home at Glasgow Caledonian University,” says Marie-Claire Marzaroli, one of Oscar’s three daughters.  “It was our mother’s wish we find the right setting to preserve his legacy and the family are excited by the University’s plans to make the photos available online.” Her sister Nicola Marzaroli added “There are so many images, even we do not know what treasures our dad has left hidden in there. We hope people will get behind the fundraising campaign to enable the work required for everyone to be able to enjoy them in the future.”

Singer and songwriter, Ricky Ross, spoke of his personal connection with Oscar at a special event to celebrate the arrival of the archive at GCU and launch the fundraising campaign. He said “Oscar’s work is part of Scotland’s social history. I got in touch with Oscar after I became fascinated with his work, and he ended up coming out with us and shooting some photographs for our first Deacon Blue album in different locations. I’d told him about the idea of Raintown and he called me one day to say there was a picture he thought suited it. It’s the one with the sunshine coming through the clouds. We loved it and our music from that period has been linked to Oscar ever since.”

The University Archivist, Carole McCallum, says the Marzaroli Collection is of international importance. "Oscar’s photographs are instantly recognisable – particularly the iconic images he took in the Gorbals before the tenements were cleared away. They’ve become rooted in popular culture but people don’t realise Oscar worked all over Scotland and further afield both as a photographer and filmmaker. 

"We are tremendously excited about putting the archive online but we need to raise around £200,000 to carry out all the work required to preserve, catalogue and digitise the various photographic mediums. With the family, we have selected 14 precious images for auction, 13 of which were developed by Oscar himself. We would also like to thank the Fine Art Society for their support. Our biggest thank you goes, of course, to Oscar’s daughters - Marie Claire, Nicola and Lisa - for their generosity and openness in donating the archive to our university archive."

For more information about the University’s plans for the archive and a link to the online auction kindly hosted by McTear’s visit The Marzaroli Collection.