Current Exhibition

John Bulmer: The North

12/12/17 – 31/05/18

The North brings together for the first time the pioneering photojournalism of John Bulmer’s northern magazine commissions from the 1960’s and 70’s.

As a budding photographer one of Bulmer’s earliest assignments was to photograph Nelson in Lancashire for Town Magazine in 1960. It was also his first ever trip to the North of England, which at the time felt to him as ‘exotic as darkest Africa’. He spent only three days in Nelson but came back with some pictures that he still considers to be amongst his favourites after fifty years of travelling the world. The success of these black and white images led to a number of similar commissions over the next few years – to The Black Country, Warrington, The Potteries and Hartlepool. Bulmer felt welcomed everywhere he went with his camera; to pubs and working men’s clubs, and in the cobbled streets. He developed a strong affection for the people he encountered – the bond evident in his work.

The launch of The Sunday Times Colour Magazine was to propel Bulmer’s photography in a new direction. The sudden switch to colour caught out some photographers but Bulmer made the adjustment seamlessly and became one of the magazine’s key contributors. In 1965 he was sent North again, this time with colour film in his camera. 

“Photography is a form of abstraction in a way – you reduce everything until you have something that’s simple enough to give you an emotional kick. And when you add colour it creates an extra dimension that can be a distraction. I decided to shoot in winter. This way I could soften the images with rain and fog.”

Bulmer’s extraordinary images of Halifax, Leeds and Liverpool for the Sunday Times and later, in 1976, of Manchester for Geo Magazine form an almost unique colour record of this remarkable era.

The North will be exhibited at The Observatory photography gallery until the 31st of May 2018.