Ian Beesley

Acclaimed social documentary photographer, Ian Beesley, completed the Foundation in Art &
Design at Bradford Art College in 1974.

Ian Beesley when a student in 1974Following his Foundation course at Bradford Art College, Ian studied at Bournemouth & Poole College of Art until 1977 when he graduated with a double distinction in editorial and documentary photography. He has been a professional photographer for over 30 years and his work has been exhibited widely, both at home and internationally.

Ian has produced over 20 books, some in collaboration with local historians, documenting industrial landscapes, urban life and architecture and vanishing workplaces. He has also captured such diverse subjects as professional sportsmen, ophans, tattoos, and clubbers. Titles include Through the Mill (1987); Victorian Bradford (1987); Calderdale: Architecture and History (1988); Victorian Manchester & Salford (1988); Undercliffe: Bradford’s Historic Victorian Cemetery (1991); Leeds the Architectural Heritage: A First Selection (1993); A Place of Work (1995); Claret and Amber in Black and White: Bradford City AFC’s Premiership Season 1999-2000; The Power, the Pride, the Passion: Images from the Bradford Bull’s 2001 Season; Building Sights: The Architecture and People of Leeds (2001); Orphans of the Fall-out: Zhitkovitchi Orphanage, Belarus (2001); Meltdown: Words and Images from West Yorkshire Foundries (2004) and Shining Out: Reflecting the Images of Stainless Steel Rolling at Shepcote Lane (2006). He has also worked in film and lectured in photography.

“The year I spent on the Foundation course was possibly the best year I have had in education. I was always interested in art but I never did it at school because of their stupid options system. When I left school I ended up working at Esholt sewage works. I had a friend who was a student at Bradford Art College and he said I should show the tutors there the photos and bits of writing and drawing I did and see if I could get a place on a course. Workmates encouraged me to go for it and told me not to get stuck where I was. When you work in a sewage works it concentrates your mind as to what you want to do!

I started in September 1973 and the photo shows what I looked like then! I am eternally grateful that I did. The course was great but the best thing was being part of such a vibrant art scene. I remember Albert Hunt, all the events and the great speakers that came in. My favourite was Champion Jack Dupree, the famous American blues pianist. He had been put in an orphanage after his parents were killed by the Klu Klux Klan and he became a bare knuckle fighter before teaching himself to play the piano. I also remember Brendan Behan’s brother visiting to talk about him, plus Viv Stanshall and various people from the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. It was never a formal programme but it seemed that nearly every day something amazing happened.”

Photograph supplied by Ian Beesley