The Bradford Grid Photography Project

The Bradford Grid is an ongoing photographic survey of Bradford City and the surrounding towns and countryside. A map of the Bradford district is used as a guide to document the area grid square by grid square by a group of professional and amateur photographers. The photographers are encouraged to be responsive to what they find in the grid area where a diversity of practice is encouraged. It is estimated it will take12 years to document the full extent of the Bradford Metropolitan District. The project is dynamic with collaborators coming and going, guest photographers being invited and writers being asked to contribute critically and contextually. This stimulating and eclectic approach produces contemporary and critical representations which challenge clichéd thinking about the post-industrial city.

The Bradford Grid Photography Project is inspired by a similar project operating in Portland, Oregon - The Portland Grid. This project has been operating for thirty years and they have compiled an archive of around 20,000 images including, architecture, people, residential neighbourhoods and industrial sites. Bradford seemed an ideal subject to apply some of the Portland ideas. We decided that the core photographers have to either live or work in the Bradford district. Each month a section of the map is chosen at random to act as a prompt to visit and photograph and we also meet regularly to discuss work in progress.

Bradford is going through a period of change and re-development which raises questions about how the city wishes to define itself in the 21st century. The town still has some amazing architecture from the 19th century industrial period when it was a centre for textile manufacturing. After the decline in this industry there has been little building of note able to compete. There have been previous attempts at modernisation when some notable buildings were removed in the 1960s and more recently a lot of the architecture in the centre has been torn down to make way for a new shopping centre. The central library is an exception, though even this building needs to be refurbished and the radio masts spoil its clean lines.

Bradford's perceived image is not a progressive one, the dilapidated buildings from its industrial past have given it the reputation of being run down and attempts at recovery seem thwarted by poor quality building and its close proximity to Leeds. Its’ past history of ‘missing the boat’ with regard to European funding, more recently controversy regarding management of the Westfield site and issues to do with the fate of the Odeon cinema, have added to its woes. The current building of City Park in the city centre and UNESCO City of Film status suggests moves to remedy some of these setbacks and with the city’s interest in film and photography represented by the National Media Museum and Impressions Gallery a cultural re-awakening seems possible. Bradford’s urban and rural landscape continues to adapt, its layered history giving clues to a rich past, providing ideal material for a social and topographic survey.