Nodding toward Lyle & Scott's heritage, I wrote a series of profiles on some of the most well known, notorious and creative Scots of the last century.
Harry Benson CBE
Glaswegian born photographer Harry Benson CBE boasts one of the most impressive, iconic photography portfolios of the last century. Initially moving to the US in 1964 to work with the Beatles, after over fifty years in the industry it’s difficult to do justice to the full depth and range of his work. Benson’s career uniquely combines portrait photography, documentary photography and photojournalism: he’s photographed every American president from Dwight D Eisenhower to Barack Obama; marched with and photographed Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement; taken formal portraits of a myriad of celebs including Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Dolly Parton, Brad Pitt, and Michael Jackson (in his bedroom), as well taken on high-risk assignments in conflict zones including Ireland, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, Israel and the West Bank.
"I did the Berlin Wall going up, I did the Berlin Wall coming down. I was next to Bobby Kennedy when he was shot dead. I covered the race riots in ‘66 and have personally photographed every American President since Eisenhower. But do you know what I really wanted to do with my life? To play in goal for Scotland. "Harry Benson
Benson’s photographs are in a permanent collection in both the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh and Washington DC and he was awarded his CBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 2009. Last month Benson was rewarded a Degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
In 1964 Benson was diverted from an assignment in Africa to a project that would document ‘Beatlemania’ as it swept through Europe. Accompanying The Beatles on their tour he took the defining image of the group as they larked about in a Paris hotel room; a photograph that beautifully expresses the optimism and innocence of the age. The recently published Taschen coffee table book Harry Benson The Beatles on the road 1964-1966 portrays Benson’s unique access to The Beatles’ inner sanctum, and presents some of the most intimate photographs ever taken of the band
Hudson Mohawke, born Ross Birchard but known to his fans as HudMo, is a Glaswegian IDM and Hiphop producer making waves across the global music scene. By the age of 15, Hudson Mohawke was a founding member of the LuckyMe collective. Starting as a club night held in a vegan rock venue in Glasgow, the LuckyMe record label now hosts a roster as diverse and intriguing as it’s humble beginnings, including the likes of Rustie, Jacques Greene and Bauuer.
"With an ever renewing appreciation (for music), we continue to release our favourite music, shows or artwork for people to eat up in this far too cynical world". LuckyMe
After releasing a series of EP’s from 2006, Mohawke joined forces with Montreal’s Lunice during their LuckyMe tour in 2010 becoming ½ of TNGHT. With club hit’s such as Buggin and Higher Ground, their music influenced heavily by hip-hop with deep techno roots has received love from the likes of NME, Dazed and countless other tastemakers.
HudMo has earned himself cult DJ status. Famed artists from Björk to Jay Z have approached the Glaswegian for his skills in music production and achievements include performances to worldwide audiences; from SWSX in Nevada to the Warehouse Project in Manchester,
The young DJ has gained international attention thanks to his collaboration with Kanye West on one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year; Yeesuz. The anthemic “Blood on the leaves” takes its beat from one of the first tracks TNGHT ever produced. Signed to Kanye’s own music label G.O.O.D Music, and with tracks such as “Mercy” on his C.V, Hudson Mohawke has been billed as the most exciting talents to come out of Scotland in the last ten years,
Coinciding with the film release of Filth, deemed to be “so shocking it was almost not released” The Guardian, we take a look into the life and works of Scotland’s most controversial modern writer: Irvine Welsh.
Novelist, playwright and short story teller Irvine Welsh was born in Leith, Edinburgh in 1958. Leaving school at 16, Welsh had various jobs, but didn’t really like work any more than he did school. Moving to London amidst the punk scene, Welsh sought to catch up on some of education he’d missed and improved the calibre of jobs he took. He returned to Edinburgh to work for the city council in the housing department followed by studying for an MBA at the Herriot Watt University.
Energised by the rave scene and crossing paths with the likes of Duncan McLean, Alan Warner and publisher Kevin Williamson, Welsh began writing using his past diaries for inspiration. As part of the so-called “Beats of Edinburgh”, extracts of what would later become Trainspotting were published in magazines such as DOG, Rebel Inc and New Writing Scotland.
Welsh shot to fame in 1993 with the publication of his debut novel Trainspotting; a gritty depiction of the life of five young Scots battling drug addiction in the poor economic conditions of the eighties. Described as “funny, unflinchingly abrasive, authentic and inventive” by Time Out, the cult classic is written entirely in a raw Scots dialect.
Giving birth to the “Cool Britannia” era of film-making, Danny Boyle’s film adaptation of Trainspotting brought Irvine Welsh into the international consciousness, along with a generation of young Scottish actors including Ewan Mcgregor, Johnny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle.
Literary critics are often divided on Welsh’s work. Trainspotting was rejected for the Booker Prize Shortlist due to a number of the female panelists being offended, whilst another literary critic proclaimed it “deserved to sell more copies than the bible”. Welsh’s next book Ecstasy became the first paperback original to go straight in at No1 on the Sunday Times best-sellers list, a feat emulated by Filth, which became Welsh’s highest selling book after Trainspotting.
Fifteen years after the release of the novel, the film adaptation of Filth will be premiering at cinemas this October. James McAvoy portrays bigoted detective sergeant Bruce Robertson, a misanthropist with a penchant for alcohol and cocained fuelled holidays in Amsterdam. Robertson finds himself enlisted to solve a brutal murder, and with a promotion on the cards, engages in backstabbing office politics in a bid to turn his colleagues against each other.
"Lurid, propulsive, grisly and trippy: there’s no chance that you might confuse an Irvine Welsh story with a Richard Curtis fable" The Scotsman
The inspiration for Filth derives from Welsh’s stint at city council: “At Edinburgh council there a lot of guys like Bruce that were the system,” says Welsh. “The council had changed from being this old bureaucracy into this big equal opportunities ‘right on’ place, but they were working with these dinosaurs who were still wandering around in this kind of culture. I thought it would be great to do something about that, but then the council’s kind of boring – if you’ve got a fucked-up council official, you might not get your rubbish taken away on time. But if you’ve got a corrupt cop it’s much more interesting.”
Charles Renee Mackintosh
Born in Glasgow 1868, Charles Renee Mackintosh is not only one of the most celebrated and recognised architects of his generation, but his overall contribution to Scottish art is extensive. Mackintosh first trained as an architect, a trade he later named the “supreme discipline”, but he combined this with more specialist art teaching received at Glasgow’s School of Art.
Inspired by a childhood spent in the Scottish countryside and influenced heavily by simplistic Japanese art, Mackintosh’s style was distinctly Art Nouveau; a “total style” embracing everything from architecture to graphic art and jewellery. Mackintosh is considered part of the “Glasgow School”, a circle of influential modern artists and designers who began to coalesce in Glasgow in the 1870s. The most prominent definers of the Glasgow School were “The Four” that consisted of Mackintosh and his wife, painter and glass artist Margaret MacDonald, MacDonald’s sister Frances, and Herbert MacNair. The Four, otherwise known as the Spook School defined the “Glasgow Style” and ultimately made a great impact on the definition of Art Nouveau.
Mackintosh’s first public commission was for the Glasgow Herald building, once home to the longest running newspaper in the world. The Herald building which shut in the 1980s featured an 8,000 gallon water tank housed within the ornate tower to protect the building and its contents in case of fire, an impressive spiral staircase and cast iron columns. When the building reopened its doors in 1999 as the Lighthouse, many of the original features were still intact. Today the Lighthouse is a visitor centre and exhibition space for Design and Architecture in Scotland, acting as the hub for creative industries within Scotland.
By the end of the 19th century, Glasgow School of Art (where Mackintosh had earlier studied) was one of the leading art schools in the world, its reputation for decorative arts and architecture unmatched. Whilst working for Glasgow firm Honeyman and Kippie, Mackintosh’s design proposal for the regeneration of the academy was accepted. Due to a lack of money, the school was constructed in two distinct phases; 1897-99 and 1907-09 adding to the eclectic mix of styles and influences, but is considered as Mackintosh’s greatest achievements cited by architects as one of the finest buildings in the UK. Easily recognisable features include the roses reflected in the schools windows, as well as typically decorative stone and metal work.
Like so many fine artists, Mackintosh never received the praise he deserved within his lifetime. His designs became even more widely popular in the years following his death, with prints and Mackintosh inspired jewellery sold worldwide. In 1996 his original architectural plans were used to build House for An Art Lover, also furnished with his and his wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh’s works. The rediscovery of Mackintosh as a significant figure in design has been attributed to the designation of Glasgow as European City of Culture in 1990. With an ever-increasing interest being shown both in the work of Mackintosh himself and Glasgow in general, both the Lighthouse and The Glasgow School of Art (referred to as Mackintosh’s building) have become favoured destination for a growing number of tourists, so much so, that in excess of 20,000 visitors a year are accommodated on regular guided tours.