British photographic history

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Exhibition: Ralph Wallis: Is this seat taken? / 25 March–20 April 2016

In celebration of its 170th anniversary Leeds College of Art has announced its next exhibition of work: photographer Ralph Wallis, entitled Is this seat taken?... opening at a special preview evening on 24 March, 5pm-7pm at the College’s Vernon Street building.

Is this seat taken? captures images of Leeds City Centre in the 1950s. The Headrow, the Queens Hotel and Leeds City Varieties are amongst the works as well as alumni of the College, including a life sized image of the late, legendary Leeds Jazz musician, Ed O’Donnell.

Guest-curator and Leeds College of Art alumna, Bianca Wallis-Salmon, has researched the life and work of her great-uncle, Ralph Wallis and has used his work to produce an autobiographical photobook which will be launched at the preview event 24 March 5pm-7pm. Visitors at the preview can also take a tour of the College’s black-and-white photography darkrooms, all are welcome to this free event and no booking is required.

Ralph Wallis, he is a lesser-known but prolific photographer, who took up the camera in the 1950s. Ralph began his career working as a press photographer for the Yorkshire Evening Post, alongside childhood friend Peter O’Toole. Ralph worked as a technician then Lecturer in Charge of Photography at Leeds College of Art in the early 60s, and set up darkrooms to provide photographic facilities for students. Leeds-born Ralph aged 83 years of age now resides in Canada.

Ralph Wallis comments: 'Similar to Edna Lumb I found Leeds, with all its soot covered buildings and incredible street children of all shapes and sizes, just screaming out to be photographed. As in those dark days, which I loved as a young photographer, Leeds was made for us.' 

Bianca Wallis-Salmon said: 'Ralph has a certain style, his charm and charisma shining through with every click of the shutter. His images have a way of transporting your imagination; I sometimes feel I could be looking at a still from Brief Encounter. I became enchanted by the bold emotion of the photographs, and felt they needed to be seen. So I embarked on producing this publication, a visual autobiography that showcases his iconic images and also tells the story of his life. I feel very proud to have finally brought Ralph’s work into the open and hope people will be equally enamoured with our story.  

Leeds College of Art has been a hugely significant part of my families past, present and future. And I hope that in turn we have played our part in contributing to the legacy of creativity that thrives within its walls.'

See more here.

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