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Retail – at the heart of Leeds

Leeds – a shopper’s paradise

Leeds is a compact city built, from its beginnings, around commerce and retail. The focus on retail and fashion became even more pronounced after the global financial crisis of 2007-8. With every city, every town, talking about the end of the ‘high street’, Leeds went ahead with developments to enhance the shopping experience it offered.

Trinity Leeds is a huge covered shopping mall embracing several arcades and walkways and tying together the city centre. When it opened (on or alongside Briggate) it was the only such massive commercial development in Europe. The Arts@Trinity arts centre in the Holy Trinity church, Boar Lane mounted an exhibition using the Trinity Leeds strapline (“Your Retail Soulmate“) featuring seven photographers/artists, including me.

Twelve of my Instagram photos displayed on the pews of the church
I also constructed two stained glass windows from my Instagram photos

My imagination feeds off encounters on crowded streets. But I do like to be surrounded by trees, too. One my earliest ambitions was to be a conservationist. For almost eight years (2007–2015) I made almost daily excursions into nature with two women, Ann (1954-2012) and Sara (1956-2015), who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Both wanted to get outdoors and into nature just as often as they could.

Trouble was … I was like a dog on a lead. I could hardly wander off and leave them to their own devices. When Sara died I determined to take my camera out into nature just as often as I could…

My most recent exhibition arose out of the habit I developed while spending every evening with Sara, returning home to take a walk around Headingley around midnight. Nightwalking is a deeply rewarding activity.

The “Briggate” Exhibition in The Light, Albion Street, Leeds 2007

(above: Jay Mawson and myself walking through my 2007 ‘Briggate’ exhibition. Photo: Gabi Helfert)

On the streets of Leeds

This is an archive of my photos taken in Leeds since 2006. An ‘archive’ because sometimes — for the sake of a more complete record — I have included images which are not as good as I would wish them to be…

When I was taken by surprise my good friend, Gabi Helfert captured the moment. Thanks, Gabi

Early in 2006 I committed myself to documenting life on Briggate, the main retail thoroughfare of Leeds. Only later did I learn that the development of Leeds as a city began in 1207 with the opening up of Briggate as an extension of the medieval market that had long been held on the bridge (‘Brig’) over the River Aire. Plans were already afoot to mark 800 years of the city’s development. Eventually I was able to mount a large exhibition as part of the festivities and thus began my serious interest in documenting the life of my adopted home city…

[click on any image below to see a gallery of enlargements]

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The exhibition was huge with almost 200 images and included a small “Empty Leeds” exhibition by Jay Mawson. For more about the exhibition plus a comprehensive archive of the images click on the button below…

Most of the many people who viewed the exhibition came on it by chance.