‘Father of modern Scottish photography’ display to mark Dunfermline city status

Captivating images taken in the 1960s by a photographer dubbed “the father of modern Scottish photography” are to feature in an exhibition marking Dunfermline’s newly-acquired city status.

Carnegie Library and Galleries of Joseph McKenzie's photo of a young boy in Dunfermline in the 1960s
Carnegie Library and Galleries of Joseph McKenzie's photo of a young boy in Dunfermline in the 1960s

Some 47 black and white pictures snapped by Joseph McKenzie, who trained as a photographer while in the RAF, will go on show at Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries next month.

Mr McKenzie, who died in 2015 aged 86, became a prolific photographer through the 1960s, documenting post-war Scotland at a time of momentous change.

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All of the photos in the exhibition, titled Dunfermline And Its People, which was originally shown in nearby Pittencrieff House Museum in 1968, were taken during 1967 and 1968, an eventful time period for the former Royal Burgh.

McKenzie's photo of a ballet class in session in Dunfermline in the 1960s will go on show next month. Issue date: Monday October 10, 2022.

In 1967, Dunfermline’s 100-year-old Castleblair Works, built to weave linen before becoming a silk mill, closed, a sign of the town’s move away from textiles production.

To the south of Dunfermline, an estimated 1,000 families were settling into the recently completed Pitcorthie housing estate, a key part of the town’s expansion following the opening of the Forth Road Bridge in October 1964.

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In 1968, Dunfermline Athletic returned from Hampden Park with the Scottish Cup and a young upcoming folk singer, Barbara Dickson, took the plunge to become a professional musician.

Dunfermline is one of eight places to have won prestigious city status through a competition as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

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Joseph McKenzie's photo of a view looking north in Dunfermline towards the gas works, with the Abbey tower in the distance.

It took on the role of Royal Mausoleum after the loss of Iona to the kingdom of Norway. Kings and Queens believed to lie buried beneath the abbey church include Queen Margaret and King Malcolm III, David I, and Robert I. The site is unparalleled in Scotland as a royal burial place, serving this role for over 250 years until 1371.

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The King has conferred city status on the town after carrying out his first official visit as monarch earlier this month.

After serving as a photographer in the RAF, Mr McKenzie taught photography full-time at St Martins School of Art in London and then at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee.

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He was elected an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society in 1954.

Mr McKenzie’s work is held in public and private collections including those of the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the McManus Art Gallery and Museum in Dundee.

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His Glasgow Gorbals Children exhibition was shown in Edinburgh, Dundee and Dunfermline in 1965, and in 1966 he followed this up with Dundee – A City In Transition to commemorate the opening of the Tay Road Bridge.

Alice Pearson, a curator with the cultural charity OnFife, which runs the exhibition venue, said: “Joseph McKenzie really brings the city to life in his photographs – its history, its location, its hustle and bustle, as well as the friendliness of its people.”

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“He gave us a remarkable portrait of a place in the midst of momentous change and provides glimpses of a world that has all but vanished.

“It is fitting that his legacy can be enjoyed by people once again as Dunfermline begins a new chapter in its illustrious story.”

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Dunfermline And Its People runs at Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries from November 19 to February 26 2023.

Admission to the display is free.

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Images courtesy of the artist’s estate.