Leeds City Centre 7th Feb 2012

In the midst of a cold, dull and already seemingly endless February the morning forecast was bright and so we hopped on the bus into the city with the intention of looking for images that might work in the “colour” section of the OCA course. Now I’m diffident to say the least about this part of the whole (see the post on colour-blindness for the reason why) and so while I did find one or two that might make a contribution, I soon lost track of that particular motivation and began enjoying what I saw around me (which is surely what photography is for, especially at my stage and in my context!).

The shop windows of Harvey Nichs were a joyous surprise! Actually it occurs to me that this was even more the case given that we later strayed into the sculpture exhibition currently at the Town Hall gallery. I have to say (though I don’t greatly like HNs as a store), I much prefer their artwork! So much in the gallery seemed to be almost self-indulgent, created for the satisfaction of the artist but without regard to communication (or maybe I’m thick and just don’t get it!), where as this, while commercially blatant, is at least an attempt to say something to those who pass by. I enjoyed the displays; I also greatly enjoyed the interplay between them and the reflections of the stores opposite, both in the mix of crisply modern and curvaciously old, and also in the fact that “Curry’s Digital” seems to feature in all of HNs window displays!

5.changingtimes was the turning point of the morning. I’ve been to Leeds many times, and walked past this point may times, but for the first time I noticed here that the erstwhile “Leek and Westbourne Building Society” , established in 1824, has in the passage of time, become Starbucks Coffee. Progress or what? Actually I suspect “what” rather than progress, given the state of British banking and the ever growing superfluity of coffee houses in Leeds. Hey hoe!

But on this morning that little “epiphany” started me looking upwards and noticing and photographing some of the many very handsome facades that still stand proudly above the modern shopping centre that the city has become. And they do stand proudly – remembrancers I guess of the days of industrial revolution when Leeds was the great commercial centre for the wool trade that flowed down the canals and railway lines from Calderdale, Airedale, Ribblesdale and the like. They hold a canopy of continuity over the comings and goings of the shops below.

Technically they set up a problem of course in the “converging verticals” that shooting high buildings without the very expensive specialist equipment made for the purpose. Actually though, to my mind at any rate, there’s something in that imperious lean, that high taper that speaks of stability, strength and longevity, so I’m not going to mess with it in photoshop! There’s netting too and other “anti-bird” devices, there’s the odd tree growing at ridiculous heights and seemingly out of nothing, and who was Longley (8)? Google offers one or two possibilities, among them an engineer by the name of J W Longley and a bedmaker called Joseph Longley, of Lands lane and New York St Leeds, but none that makes any obvious claim to this really rather extrovert preservation of the name.

So – fun morning, and here are 16 images to back up that assertion. Should anyone look at this and chance to know anything about the intriguing Longley, please do let me know!

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