Welcome

Welcome to Leeds, or at least to my version of it.

At the beginning of 2006 I began a year-long project documenting the comings and goings on Briggate, the main retail thoroughfare in Leeds city centre. In 2007 an exhibition of almost 200 photos was mounted in The Light, a shopping mall off Albion Street.

That is my exhibition in the photo below.

In a city like Leeds all kinds of people rub shoulders. I am interested in the ways in which people experience the city and experience one another.

I never tire of observing their comings and goings.

Leeds is the subject of this website. I have included information on the exhibitions, photobooks and projects that have been part of my explorations. Along the way I have given a number of talks and workshops and I have incorporated some detail about my methods and ways of working for those curious about how these images were collected.

Jay Mawson and I at my 2007 exhibition

Leeds is a city easy to get around — at least on foot.

The compact commercial or retail core (in grey below on the map below) is bounded by the Headrow, Vicar Lane, Boar Lane and Park Row. The city centre extends beyond this area (especially north, to include the St. John’s and Merrion Centres) but the number of shopfronts and cafés drop away sharply. There are other areas of real interest: the WY Playhouse area, Millenium Square and developments around the river and beyond toward Holbeck.

But part of the great attraction of Leeds, for the photographer as much as the shopper, is that everything essential can be reached with a short walk or on a single expedition.

Not only is Leeds a compact and approachable city but it is criss-crossed by a wonderful network of arcades and malls. Much of the city centre has been pedestrianised. The arcades, malls and department stores can keep you just about completely dry, even when the weather is less than fine.

And my interest in arcades and in role of retail in shaping society began long before our move to Leeds.

Retail is an important part of any city. But it has played an extraordinary role in the development of Leeds. After the economic crash of 2007-8 Leeds managed to go ahead with the transformation of the city centre with the building of Trinity Leeds and the expansion of the retail area with the opening of the Victoria Quarter (featured in the three pictures above).

Fashions come and fashions go. The fabulously futuristic display in the photo below is already a thing of the past: that shop is no longer part of County Arcade.

Who can predict what the face of retail will look like after the Covid crisis of 2020?

Leeds is well-organised city.

But that does not mean that it is always easy to get around in or, indeed, to live in. I am also interested in the ways in which people ‘manage’ the city, they way in which they struggle with the city, negotiate with the city.

I enjoy venturing out into city nights. As a man with a camera, I enjoy exploring the different rhythms of the city. Wandering around with a camera, I seldom drink much alcohol. I need to keep focused and aware and, let’s face it, I need to keep safe.

So this is an unabashedly male view of the city, by day and by night. I want a city safe enough to be enjoyed by everyone. And I am always interested in how others — especially women — experience night in the city.

Although I love visiting Leeds city centre, I live in the leafy suburbs. On this site you will find my explorations of the diversity of Leeds suburbs, urban, suburban and rural, as they sprawl across West Yorkshire.

Even in the suburbs I am always on the lookout for new perspectives, new ways of showing how the diverse peoples of Leeds rub up against one another and, generally, get along.

A hand car wash, Kirkstall, from a user’s perspective.

So, that’s all by way of introduction. I do hope that you will enjoy exploring some of the galleries collected here. And I would be delighted to receive your comments…