Allan Dodds Photography

I am a retired Academic and Neuropsychologist. Before I went to university I was a Medical Photographer and before that, as a keen amateur photographer, I often exhibited images at the Edinburgh Photographic Society. I recently joined a photography Facebook group where members encouraged me to start up a blog of images dating back to my teenage years. The following represents a photographic biography that documents my love of cameras and the images they can record, covering a period of over sixty years.

This is the first picture that I ever took that I can call 'pictorial', or something other than just a 'snapshot'. It shows Newhaven Harbour at sunset. I took the picture when I was thirteen years old, on a Kodak Brownie box camera that a kind neighbour had given me. Because my Father developed and printed his own photographs and I had assisted him, I knew what to do and I never needed to take my films to the chemist for processing.

I soon outgrew the box camera and bought a Kodak Retina 35mm camera in a local junk shop for £4.00. I took the following two pictures with it at Newhaven Harbour about a year after the previous one. I still have that camera and they are now quite collectable. The pictures may not be pin sharp by today's standards but for a thirty year old camera then (nearly ninety years old now!) they're not bad, and because of the massed tones one can get away with unsharpness.

When I was still at school, at the age of fifteen I smuggled my Father's 6x9 folding camera into classes where I managed to get away with photographing various teachers, instead of concentrating on my studies. I was lucky not to get caught as the camera would have been confiscated and I would have had a lot of explaining to do to my Father. As the camera had no rangefinder and I lacked a separate exposure meter, I soon became quite good at estimating these things.

Mr Borthwick, Physics

Mr Gould, "The Mogul", History

Mr Heron, "Kipper", English

Mr Thompson, "Spud", Physics

Kipper and The Mogul in deep thought

As I had a few frames left on the roll I took a selfie in the bedroom mirror, complete with school uniform! Looking at this image now I can see how I was already fancying myself as a Photographer and beginning to adopt a new persona far removed from that of reluctant schoolboy!

As I had clearly lost all interest in school work I decided to leave at the age of sixteen to become a Photographer, as it was the only thing that interested me. But before I did that I persuaded my aunt to fund me on a school trip to Austria, and having saved up for a decent new camera (an Agfa Silette), I bought a cassette of 35mm Kodachrome (10 ASA) and took some holiday snaps. Here are a few.

Igls, near Innsbruck, Austria

School chums waving to me from aloft

Innsbruck tram

Italian town of Vipiteno, just across the Austrian border

When I returned from my first holiday abroad I didn't have the courage to tell my parents that I was leaving school before acquring any academic certificates. Instead, I donned my school uniform every morning and left with my satchel as usual, only to spend most of the day wandering around Edinburgh looking for new angles on the city. Here's a shot of Princes Street that I took from the top of the Scott Monument.

Princes Street, Edinburgh

The School eventually contacted my Father to enquire about my non-attendance. Father was very good about it although he must have been shocked at my deception, but secretly pleased that he didn't have to fork out any more fees for a private education! After a few weeks he announced that he had found me a job. A Church Elder that he knew ran a photographic company known as J Campbell Harper Ltd, a well-respected Edinburgh firm that had a vacancy for an apprentice. I was taken on at a wage of £2.00 per week but would have worked for nothing if truth be known.

My boss, Marion Boron, enrolled all apprentices in the Edinburgh Photographic Society, and every month there was a print competition. This provided the necessary motivation to get out there and show what one could do. At the end of the first year I won a silver medal and the President's Trophy and this gave me the confidence that my decision to leave school to become a Photographer had been the right one. The following images are representative of the pictorial style of photography that was still in fashion in 1961 and which I eagerly emulated.

Nelson Monument, Calton Hill, Edinburgh


Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

The following image is the one that won me the President's Trophy award. It was taken on a dull November day with a heavy, freezing fog shrouding the city. As there was no-one else around and I felt that the composition lacked human interest, I set the camera on delayed action and sprinted onto the bench to take what today would be called a 'selfie'.

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

The President's Trophy, 1961, the Centenary Year

Edinburgh was undergoing a transformation in the early 1960s, with old tenements being torn down and 'modern' houses being built to replace them. Meanwhile, a whole community was being destroyed and displaced, often to high rise flats in the sprawling suburbs of the city. One day I managed to record this series of images that speak for themselves. I often wonder where the 'little boys' are now as they will be in their sixties today.

As my confidence in my photographic skills grew I was keen to experiment with the new 'ultrafast' films that were coming onto the market, such as Kodak Royal-X Pan and Agfa Isopan Record. With such a speed of film it became possible to take hand held shots at night, and I often roamed the city looking for interesting images to record. Here are a few that I took on one of my many teenage, nocturnal roamings of Edinburgh.

Princes Street, Edinburgh

Waverley Station, Edinburgh

Princes Street, Edinburgh

Waverley Market, Edinburgh

I was now eighteen years old and venturing into cafe culture. One day I borrowed an Exakta camera from work and loaded it with the fastest film available. I learned how to 'push process' films so that they could be rated at an even higher speed than advertised. I took a few candid shots of regular cafe goers and only one of them seemed to object! I loved the harsh lighting and grainy look but the purists at the Edinburgh Photographic Society looked down with scorn upon them. I guess I was a Punk before the term had been coined!

Rutland Cafe, Edinburgh

Smoking after school

Falling in love

The intellectual

The angry intellectual

I even managed to record very dimly lit scenes such as the following two of an underground Edinburgh carnival.

Waverley Market carnival, Edinburgh

Waverley Market carnival, Edinburgh