Life & Culture

Photos Capturing Scotland’s Post-Punk Music Scene

In the 1980s, Scotland was home to a frenzied music scene, which was documented by a former maths teacher called Harry Papadopoulos

  • TextBenjamin Hammond

During Scotland’s post-punk music explosion in the 1980s, Glaswegian maths teacher Harry Papadopoulos escaped the confinements of his classroom to capture the scene’s pioneers. The self-taught photographer travelled between Glasgow and Edinburgh, documenting the new wave music movement which would later come to define Scottish popular culture.

Papadopoulos’ guerilla lensmanship and passion for music rapidly established him as a key photographer, capturing the likes of Orange Juice, Annie Lennox and Edwyn Collins. He went from selling black and white photos outside venues to becoming staff photographer on music paper Sounds.

The images he created during this time remain significant to this day – according to Stephen Allen, the curator of new exhibition Rip It Up, which features Papadopoulos’ The Sound of Young Scotland series, they are a “remarkable record of Scottish music and the cultural scene”. Here, Allen tells us more.

“Harry began contributing photographs for fanzines, before photographing the emerging post-punk scene in Glasgow and Edinburgh. He became the informal house photographer, photographing all the main bands who played the cities’ venues, and then would sell prints at the next night’s gigs.”

“He photographed all the key Scottish artists of the late 70s/early 80s, such as Orange Juice, Josef K, Altered Images, Bluebells, Aztec camera, The Associates, Skids, Rezillos, and Strawberry Switchblade, Simple Minds, as well as artists and bands who played in Glasgow and Edinburgh like Blondie, David Bowie, Rolling Stones, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, and Bryan Ferry.

“The impact of bands such as The Clash playing in Scotland galvanised young people to display a DIY ethos and form bands. The Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow art schools in particular were a breeding ground of creativity. A number of small indie labels grew up in a short space of time to produce and promote local bands, many of who (e.g. Orange Juice, Rezillos, Associates, Simple Minds) were soon signed up by major labels.”

I hope this exhibition gives people a sense of the breadth and diversity of Scotland’s pop music, the influence that many Scottish artists have had, how Scotland ‘punches above its weight’ and has produced many top bands and artists.”

Rip It Up is at The National Museum of Scotland, Chambers St, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF, until November 25, 2018