From 20 August 2022 the Salts Mill near Bradford will show the first ever career retrospective of internationally acclaimed, Bradford-born social documentary photographer Ian Beesley.
Edited from Beesley’s archive of 60,000 images, the exhibition will include previously unseen pictures as well as some of his best-known works created during a career spanning over 40 years.
When Beesley (born 1954) was expelled from school he found work in his local sewage works.
His colleagues urged him to find a passion and engage in education.
With their help, he found photography and headed first for Bradford Art College, then Bournemouth & Poole College of Art.
On graduating he was awarded the Kodak scholarship for social documentation.
Thus began a lifelong study of the North’s cultural and industrial heritage, with people at the heart of almost every picture.
Capturing an industrial society
Beesley’s early output was created walking the streets, capturing an industrial society that’s now extinct: kids larking about outside, ladies talking between tightly terraced streets, grafters going full pelt within vast Victorian factories.
Beesley soon found himself documenting the brutal closure of core heavy industries such as mining, iron and steel production.
The nobility of labour and the horror of one’s skills being forcibly rendered obsolete figure largely in these works.
In recent years Beesley’s work has encompassed physical and mental health through his involvement with important medical research projects including the Bradford Institute for Health Research’s Born in Bradford project and the University of Exeter’s IDEAL and ENLIVEN projects researching the effects of dementia.
The detailed notes Beesley makes around each shoot make for fascinating reading.
Some of these notes will be displayed alongside the photographs, beneath the iron girders of Salts Mill’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has a quarter-mile long roof-space.
About Ian Beesley
Beesley has previously had exhibitions at Milan Photofestival, Italy; the International Industrial Photography Festival, Shengyang, China; the Imperial War Museum London and the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, USA, amongst others.
His work is held in important national and international collections, including the Royal Photographic Society, the People’s History Museum, the National Science and Media Museum, the Smithsonian Institute, the National Museum of Labour History Helsinki.
He has published over 25 books and won many awards, including in 2012 an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society.
In 2019 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bradford for his significant contribution to the artistic, cultural and social well-being of the city of Bradford
Mr. Beesley has requested that we include the fact that he is a Bradford City AFC season ticket holder.
Find out more
The Ian Beesley exhibition at the Salts Mills, Saltaire, Bradford, England, runs from Saturday 20 August to Sunday 31 October 2022.
It will be open from Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4pm. Admission is free.
To find out more go to the Salts Mill website.