Jeremy Deller takes on the history of a city in Poking About at Bradford 1 Gallery

By Culture24 Reporter | 26 August 2011
A black and white photo of a man in a suit and a woman in a dress in a photographic studio
© Belle Vue Studios archive, Bradford Museums and Galleries collection
Exhibition: Poking About, Bradford 1 Gallery, Bradford, September 2 – November 27 2011

There are a lot of things you might think of when it comes to culture in Bradford. As part of the Ways of Looking snappers’ festival taking place in the Yorkshire city next month (October 2011), the ever-inventive Jeremy Deller has been given the chance to pilfer Bradford Museums and Galleries’ immense photographic archives for a show based on the premise of museums as collections of human creativity.

He swerved taking an academic or curatorial approach, and says the investigations were “neither scientific nor symptomatic”. Instead, he’s raided a range of sources which include the pioneering 20th century Belle Vue photographic studio, the Bradford Heritage Recording Unit, local newspaper the Telegraph and Argus and private donations.

The most extravert results are likely to come from the studio, which went from strength to strength despite the prevalence of personal cameras. It closed in 1975 after 72 years of business, but by then it had played host to immigrants from Asia and the Caribbean in the 1950s and 1960s, wearing suits and sunglasses and toting on cigarettes in a bid to prove their success to the families they had left behind.

Deller had a rich resource to pick from – about 17,000 plates were given to museum organisers when the building was emptied in 1983 – and they’re accompanied here by Victorian portraits and images from the Recording Unit, which documented the people and places of Bradford between 1983 and 2003.

Recent editions of the paper then become archives of the future, positioning the local rag as the continuation of a history Deller is likely to present with his usual knack for a compelling story.

  • Open Tuesday-Friday 11am-6pm (8pm Thursday, 12pm-5pm Saturday). Admission free.
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