The Long Lens blog: Photography with added snaps, art and culture

The photography site for sore eyes. Featuring: Art, photography, performance and theatre. With extra writing because I'm also a writer.

Bradford Impressions Gallery and Science + Media Museum (Winter 2017)

At some point in the last few years Bradford’s Impressions Gallery was forced to undergo a big change.

In 2013 there were rumours – in part spread by a Telegraph & Argus article, that the Gallery was to move out of its Centenary Square home and into Cartwright Hall.

These rumours were sparked by a city-wide library crisis which saw closures and a large-scale switch to administration by volunteers and community groups – as the council aimed to make £61.5m savings over two years.

The move out of City Park never came for Impressions – but the main city library did move into Impressions, robbing it of floor space and, crucially, walls.

Now everyone knows that most galleries needs walls to show their work and the beautifully designed Impressions building now includes only one exhibition space. Surely this is a catastrophe for a photography gallery.

Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool, which shares many similarities to Bradford (new building, contemporary focus) has a few faults in its exhibition curation but its three-room gallery is perfect for photography projects.

Impressions is no longer a photography exhibitions destination because it can show only one exhibition at a time – and you can’t spend a day – or even a couple of hours – looking at one exhibition.

The saving grace for Impressions is having the Science + Media Museum almost across the road, just a few hundred years away. This building too has undergone many changes over the years, not just in name, but it commonly runs at least one major photography exhibition. And usually it’s a very good one.

Bradford has a huge heritage in photography – possibly the biggest reputation for documentation photography in this country outside London – and Impressions has been integral to that.

Impressions Gallery, funded by the Arts Council and Bradford Metropolitan District Council, was founded in 1972 in a room above a shop in York. It has moved and evolved and gone on to commission some fabulous work. I was particularly a fan of Tessa Bunney’s Hand to Mouth images shown in 2007.

Here’s a link to the gallery’s past projects.

I think Impressions has consistently commissioned and shown the best photography exhibitions in Britain, easily bettering London’s Photographers’ gallery and Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool.

But it’s not all down to Impressions that Bradford is such a photography hub.

The Born in Bradford project, a multi-funded research project (Medical Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council – Populations and Systems Medicine/General Population Science Boards, to the tune of £3,576,155 – features images by legendary documentary photographer Ian Beesley. Read about the project here.

Impressions Gallery received £606,843 in Arts Council funding between 2015 and 2018. The irony is that it has returned to one-room gallery status. I hope this does not affect its future Arts Council funding.

I’d still recommend you to visit Impressions, and the Media Museum, which is also hugely child-friendly with its exhibitions.

Which brings me to the actual exhibitions. A Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £34,500 enabled the gallery to the role of female photographers in World War One. The No Man’s Land exhibition includes newly commissioned work by Alison Baskerville.

It’s a great exhibition. I particularly liked the work of Olive Edis and Baskerville. It runs until Dec 30, 2017.

By curious coincidence, the Media Museum is also currently exhibiting a gender specific project. Nudrat Afza’s City Girls is a women- only affair – though this time it’s not just the photographer who is female, all the subjects in the images are too. Afza photographed female Bradford City fans over a two-year period. I’m guessing she did no receive £34,500 to photograph the project. But it’s just as good as No Man’s Land. It runs until June 2018

Both exhibitions are free, you’ll be pleased to hear.


No Man’s Land at Impressions Gallery

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City Girls at the Media Museum

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This entry was posted on December 2, 2017 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .
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