Centuries of Leeds life... through the lens

PICTURE PERFECT: Curator Ruth Leach put the finishing touches to the exhibition. PIC: Scott Merrylees
PICTURE PERFECT: Curator Ruth Leach put the finishing touches to the exhibition. PIC: Scott Merrylees
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A new photography exhibition showcasing three different centuries of Leeds life through a lens has officially opened.

The Changing Faces of Leeds exhibition begins at Leeds City Museum today. It features a unique series of pictures capturing generations of people who have lived or worked in the city.

Among them are a collection of six antique photos of former Lord Mayors of Leeds, which are the oldest photos in the Leeds Museums and Galleries collection.

Known as daguerrotypes, the pictures date from around 1843-1849 and were made at the studio of Samuel Topham, a noted engraver and copper-plate printer who set up Leeds’s first photographic studio on Park Row in 1842.

The fascinating pictures are thought to have been among the first photographic portraits ever to be taken in the city.

More than 500 amateur snappers from different walks of life have also contributed, sending in their pictures to the museum team who then chose a selection to appear in the final display.

And a special People’s Choice competition on Facebook saw over 1,000 ‘likes’ to vote for people’s favourite images to be included in the exhibition.

The photos chosen by the people of Leeds were taken by Rebecca Major, Simon Cullingworth and Jodie Beardmore.

Ruth Leach, Leeds City Museum’s curator of exhibitions has spent months collating the photos ready to display.

She said: “It’s been a wonderful experience putting Changing Faces of Leeds together and seeing the different ways people captured the moments that were important to them on camera over so many years.

“Our aim was to bring the city’s past and present together, showing what life in Leeds used to be like and how it is today through the eyes of those who have lived and worked here.

“But what was really important to us was that people in Leeds felt like they were part of the exhibition and that it belonged to them, so we owe a huge debt to all those who took the time to send us their amazing pictures and who played a part in deciding the final line-up.”

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “What makes this such a special and exciting exhibition is that, at its heart, it’s about the people of Leeds and the many different experiences that have inspired them to pick up a camera and capture an image that will last forever.

“With our bid to be named European Capital of Culture 2023 gathering pace, we’re determined that everyone has the opportunity to feel part of culture in Leeds, and this exhibition typifies and that ambition perfectly.

“It’s also a powerful statement about our heritage, our history, and the diverse, dynamic and booming city that Leeds has grown into thanks to the people who have called it home both in the past and today.”

Changing Faces of Leeds opens today and runs until June 5. The exhibition also features a series of workshops and events for children and adults.

For more information, please visit www.leeds.gov.uk/facesofleeds.

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