Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

RAB NCNEIL: See for me photography really is a thing

For Rab, there's not a day goes by that he doesn't photograph something.
For Rab, there's not a day goes by that he doesn't photograph something.

It’s a rare week when I don’t take photographs. Budding flowers. A completed garden project. An interesting sky.

Years ago, I could develop my own black and white pictures. I knew about f-stops and shutter speeds. Now? Madam, I do not possess a scoobie.

I’ve a wee pocket camera which, despite various options, is always set to “auto”: point and shoot. It’s fine, though thankfully we can now edit the pics on computer.

Sometimes, my pictures bewilder me. Why did I snap that perfectly ordinary sky? Then I fiddle with the contrast or brightness and magical cloud shapes appear.

I thought about news photography as a career

I thought about news photography briefly as a career. I worked with photographers a lot on assignments, and thought it grand to get to go places and not have to speak to people, other than to boss them about: “Stand over there! Stick your heid up! Naw, doon!”

Sometimes, if time with a subject was going to be short or the opportunity fleeting, we’d josh each other about who got first dibs.

“What good’s a picture without words?” “A picture is worth a …” “Naw it isnae.” “Is!” “Isnae! Right, here’s how it is. I’ll introduce myself and ask incisive questions. How do you feel? That sort of thing. Then, when I’m done, I’ll say: ‘This peculiar individual wants to take your picture. Is that OK?’”

Looking for a rammy story

I worked with a couple of regulars, and we were great buddies, enjoying real experiences together.

Once, we were sent under cover to a holiday camp to investigate drug dealing and gang fights. Two suspicious-looking, dram-swilling beardie chaps just down from the isles sharing a chalet together!

We visited all the bars on the massive complex looking for trouble and were just about to give up and have a drink ourselves when a massive rammy erupted outside.

My buddy had an early pocket camera – surreptitious, see? – and got great pics, which made for a fantastic spread for the story (after camp security eventually let us go).

The fundamentalist preacher? That’s a long story

Another time we smuggled ourselves into the studio TV audience of a fundamentalist preacher we were investigating in the United States. Long story!

Recently, I’ve been organising old family pictures, of which I’m the sole curator. I’ve no family at all. Well, none that I’m aware of. One half never had much to do with us, possibly (I don’t know) because it was a mixed Catholic-Protestant marriage back then.

The other half went to South Africa, became rich and drifted out of our proletarian lives.

Frustratingly, there are fascinating pictures of people in their finery back in the day but no clue who they were.

I can always pick out my family

However, I can always pick out Mum or Auntie Jessie in school pics. Funny to think of them at school. It’s not right!

I notice that my Nana, though she obviously loved posing for pictures in glam outfits (trousers and smoking a cigarette in the late 1920s), never smiled in her prime. She was “cool” before that was a thing.

I’ve a terrible smile. It darkens rooms. But I can’t help cheesing when having my photie took. I’m better behind the camera than in front of it and, luckily, the clouds and flowers always smile beautifully for Rab.

Already a subscriber? Sign in