Iain Mackenzie grew up in the engineering town of Dalmuir, ten miles north of Glasgow. He studied photography at the Glasgow College of Printing and had a number of photographic jobs before going on to work as a photographic assistant at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA). In his spare time he photographed the city and in 1976 had a solo exhibition at The Third Eye Centre. A year later he left GSA and photography behind to convert an office in the old Cheese Market into a café. This opened in 1979 as the Café Gandolfi, in honour of the camera makers Louis Gandolfi & Sons who were of Glasgow Italian heritage.