Leeds & West Yorkshire

Subjects of photos from Belle Vue studio in Manningham sought

Man with Sunglasses Image copyright Bradford Museums
Image caption The archive is an "extraordinary record of extraordinary changes", said Tim Smith who helped save the collection

A search is on to identify people who were among thousands who had their pictures taken at a long-closed photographic studio in Bradford.

Belle Vue studios in Manningham documented people's lives from the 1920s until it closed in 1975.

After World War Two the portraits increasingly featured migrants who came to the city from around the world.

Tim Smith, a researcher, said: "It's an absolutely extraordinary record of extraordinary changes in Bradford."

The project wants to put names to the people, find them or their families and hear their stories.

The studio took pictures of many arrivals from Ukraine, Latvia, Poland, the Caribbean, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

Man next to a table Image copyright Bradford Museums
Image caption Most of the rescued images date from the 1950s to the 1970s but few of the sitters are identified

The studio's old-fashioned technique used a Victorian camera and daylight to produce a glass plate negative.

"The people were documented through a single lens, on a single camera, that never moved", Mr Smith, a photographer and former Bradford museum curator, said.

When the studio started in the 1920s, Manningham was populated by Bradford's middle classes and those who worked in the textile mills.

It later recorded a changing city and the photos were often intended to capture the sitters' success in the UK.

After the studio closed many of its images were dumped in a skip although 17,000 were saved and more than 10,000 have currently been digitised.

The search for sitters recently saw 100 of the photos taken to a local Ukrainian club and names were received for dozens of the subjects.

Boy on stool Image copyright Bradford Museums
Image caption Trying to find 10,000 names was like looking for a needle in a haystack, Mr Smith said

"We are taking a selection of the pictures to where we might find people," Mr Smith said.

The team selected a small number of likely pictures as looking at more than 10,000 images was like searching "for a needle in a haystack", he added.

Planned future events include a visit to a bus drivers' canteen because a number of the portraits feature drivers, a Windrush celebration event at the town hall and a visit to a Bangladeshi community centre.

A wrestler (L) and a man and woman Image copyright Bradford Museums

Can you identify anyone in the Belle Vue archive?

Anyone who thinks they know someone pictured in the archive is asked to contact photos@bradford.gov.uk

The project is a collaboration between Bradford Museums and Galleries and the city's National Science and Media Museum.

An hour-long documentary on the archive's project is also to be broadcast later this year on BBC One in Yorkshire and BBC Four.

Follow BBC Yorkshire on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Send your story ideas to yorkslincs.news@bbc.co.uk.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites