Jo puts Dunfermline in the frame
LEGENDARY photographer Ansel Adams once said that a photograph is usually looked at - seldom looked into.
But a Dunfermline-themed photo page on Facebook is proving the opposite.
For the regulars on 'Dunfermline Photos' pore over every shot, ask questions about what they're looking at, reminisce - and even recognise themselves or friends in the familiar scenes!
Covering more than a century of local history, the snaps provide fascinating glimpses of Dunfermline and West Fife then and now.
It's all thanks to Rosyth physiotherapist and Pilates instructor Jo Freeman (52), who in April 2011 put up a handful of the thousands of shots of Dunfermline she had taken over the last four decades.
And viewers must be enjoying the nostalgic trip down memory lane, for the page now has almost 3700 friends since being set up.
Even Jo, of Parkside Street, can't believe how it's taken off and with friend requests coming in daily, she's now thinking of having a dedicated website for the photos.
She beamed, "It's been phenomenal. I had been putting up lots of photos on the Visit Dunfermline Facebook page for about a year.
"I found a box of old pictures of Dunfermline and made an album of 100 photos and people went crazy! Thomas Moffat, of Visit Dunfermline, encouraged me and said I should start my own page."
She may have got the ball rolling but Jo calls the page a "community effort" - it sustains itself thanks to fans from as far afield as Australia and Mexico uploading their own pictures on the virtual wall.
One could spend hours poring through the historic photos: there's Andrew Carnegie and his mum on a carriage ride through the town, the Grieve Street laundry, the old bus station (with old-fashioned Alexanders double-deckers), and Stuart Adamson at the 'No Jim No Fans' march at East End Park.
More recent photos include daffodils, the illuminated Forth Bridge, gala days and the Carnegie Leisure Centre.
Mum-of-two Jo laughed, "There are about 150 comments on some of the pictures.
"People seem to be so misty-eyed about the bus station - there was the Stance cafe where you went in and got a cup of tea.
"And the Glen! You put up a picture and people go, 'Oh my God, the Glen!'
"People say they've left years and years ago but if you put up pictures of the Glen or Abbey and people say 'Oh, I miss Dunfermline! I must come back!'
"That's got to be great for Dunfermline's profile as well."
The seeds of the page were sown when 10-year-old Jo received an "Instamatic-type" camera. From that point on, she was "always the one with the camera".
She photographed family, the town and friends - one of her mates set up a band called Lorenzo Marques, which Jo said was the inspiration for Lourenzos in St Margaret's Street: "They were playing there and the lady who ran it liked the name!"
Today, she now uses a snazzy Nikon D90 but her wee camera served her well in capturing Dunfermline of yesteryear.
She smiled, "I took my camera everywhere and you can see it in one of the pictures!
"A lot of Dunfermline was knocked down starting in the 1960s and there was a lot of development in the 1970s/80s.
"I wanted to remember these places and would take one photo and that was it! I took pictures of everything.
"I had an MK1 Escort that's always in the shots - I would hop out and snap the photo!"
Despite the polished shots she posts today, Jo is not a professional and readily admits her old photos are "grainy and out of focus", as are many of those posted.
However, nobody cares - in fact, it's the 'slice of life' look that seems to appeal.
In fact, she's taken the advice from her friend, Dunfermline artist Alan Grieve, to heart: "You're creating art and art is for everybody, focus is overrated!"
She said, "None of the photos are touched up - they're not framed well and out of focus.
"But you can see an old phone box, old lamp-posts and buses, how people dressed in those days and the hairstyles. Everybody had a perm!
"I've got a pic of the Opera House - that got taken down quite early and that's where Debenhams is now - and there are people who put up pictures of their mum in the 60s in the garden somewhere in Rosyth.
"It's daily life. The things that take people's fancy are the most ordinary things."
And it's these "ordinary" shots that create Jo's favourite aspect of the page: the conversations.
The most unassuming photo can jog memories, spark discussions about local social history and reveal surprising connections between people.
And if viewers click on the 'Notes' link, they'll find information on random bits of Dunfermline's history too.
Jo explained, "The conversations are the best thing. People seem to get a lot of pleasure out of it.
"There's a picture of a girl with a tin for Cancer Research in and one girl got in touch and said, 'That's me!'
"One day I put up a picture of my friend Bryan Sinclair's house in Crossford and this guy, Thomas Sinclair in Canada - who's the manager of Nazareth! - comes on and said, 'That's my cousin Bryan's house!'
"Then a cousin in Australia comes on and says the same thing and there's another cousin in Russia and they were asking, 'Oh, how's Bryan doing?' It was amazing.
"There's a picture of St Margaret's Drive when it was being built - it was known as 'the new road' and the trees were beginning to get planted and there was a guy who had built the road and he told us all about it.
"I took a picture of the tunnel at Burntisland Links and one girl said she had got lost in that tunnel when she was five.
"People have come up with a lot of interesting history about sites in Dunfermline - someone came on asking about the coat of arms for Dunfermline and 10 minutes later there was a picture and reply and where to find out more on the internet!"
She is constantly "amazed" by the photos that pop up on the page and is just as surprised people enjoy hers. Part of that enjoyment is probably down to kind-hearted Jo's efforts to snap shots specially for others.
She grinned, "I spent half the summer taking pictures of where people used to live.
"There was an old guy from Inverness who used to live in Dunfermline in Parkneuk and he was wondering what the place looked like now.
"I went up one day and took pictures of it and he was so happy.
"One girl from Dunfermline who now has a bar in Mexico was one of the first to get in touch. She asked if she could print out the Dunfermline photos and use them in the bar - which is called The Scotsman - and I also took photos of where she used to live.
"People get really excited about little things like this and it's great."
And in carrying out her labour of love, Jo has rediscovered a love for her hometown.
She said, "Now that I'm doing the page I've become more interested in Dunfermline.
"People have put up pictures of Abbeyview and what it was like when it was brand-new - it was like space-age!
"I went round and took pictures one night and it's such a gorgeous little place. It's discovering things like that that I like.
"We have such a rich heritage, royal connections and unique places like the Glen. You forget how interesting and amazing Dunfermline is."
She joked that with her boxes of "thousands" of photos she'll "never run out of stuff to put up".
She added, "A lot of photos are just waiting to be scanned in but if you're working full-time and have two kids, you have to find the time.
"People will ask, 'Have you got a picture of this?' and I'm like, 'Actually, I do!'"
Maintaining the page takes up about two hours daily - Jo wakes up at 5.50am to check on it before she goes to work and again when she gets home at night.
Ironically, Jo had considered spending more time on the page and by a cruel twist, she will now get to do that - she discovered she had ovarian cancer last month and is now off work and waiting to undergo treatment.
She said, "I had not been felling well - my tummy swelled and the doctor thought it was a blocked bowel because I had not been eating properly.
"I was sent to hospital for tests on the Friday and on Saturday morning I was told it looked like ovarian cancer.
"I know from working as a physio in a hospice that ovarian cancer is the silent killer, so when I was told, I was like, 'Oh s***.'
"I was told five minutes before my kids came in and I had to try and look brave for them."
However, cheery Jo added, "Dunfermline Photos will be a good distraction - it's something I can do and keep me occupied. I can completely lose myself in it."
On a happier note, Dunfermline Photos will soon bloom into a fully-fledged, dedicated website.
Jo smiled, "I'm getting a website through Visit Dunfermline and hopefully it will get all set up.
"Facebook is quite transient and you're afraid things will get lost. You want to keep the facts and photos people have put up.
"With the website you can get everything in one place and it will be a lot easier to navigate instead of just going back to old posts.
"I want it to feel like a community - people seem to really love Dunfermline and are willing to show you its best parts. It brings happiness to others."
This article appeared in Dunfermline Press 15 Mar 12
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Mar 16, 09:42
Mar 16, 14:07
Through her enthusiastic, energetic personality Jo has created more than a simple FB page she has brought together Dunfermline's diaspora with a mixture of memories and history.
Recommend? Yes 22 No 0
Mar 18, 06:36
Mar 18, 06:36
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Mar 24, 14:11