I came across Peter Mitchell via an article in the Yorkshire Post Magazine (10 September 2016). I have included the article in my sketch book.
The title of the article was: Exposure at last for king of the snapshot. Underneath was the comment: Is Peter Mitchell our most overlooked photographer? Martin Parr certainly thinks so….’
Mitchell lives in Leeds and has spent many years photographing Yorkshire. Anything local, particularly endorsed by Martin Parr, gets my attention. There is a picture of him, in his 70s, dressed in a bright patterned shirt that fixes him as interesting and eccentric.
I read the article and found that Mitchell has been photographing for many years, away from public attention except for an occasional exhibition or a photo book every five years.
He says, of his lack of celebrity, ‘I’m still analogue…I don’t have a mobile phone, I don’t have a laptop’.
Mitchell’s life’s work has been to capture images of Yorkshire, particularly Leeds, showing the reality of life there, capturing pictures of ‘things before it’s too late’. He focussed initially on Quarry Hill flats, documenting the demolition and its impact on residents, he ‘photographed the real, not just the pretty’.
I learned that he was about to open an exhibition in Bradford, and that he actually is in his mid 70s. I went to see Mitchell’s exhibition at the Impressions Gallery, Bradford, on 15 October 2016. Here are some of the photographs displayed:
Taken with my phone – my camera is sadly away for repairs.
The exhibition showcases 40 years of Mitchell’s work: ‘His images document the passing of time, recording a cycle of demolition, decay, renewal and redemption’.
I found that I really liked many of Mitchell’s images, I liked his capturing of the ordinary – houses, people at work, local industry and leisure in the same way that people take snap shots for the family album to preserve particular moments in time.
Mitchell gave an hour long talk which was quite fascinating. This was not a talk specifically about the images on the gallery walls but about his life from childhood. His presentation included some of his own photographs but also those taken by friends and family members and by photographers whose images have been significant to him during his life.
This was quite a personal and intimate presentation, we learned a lot about Mitchell the man not just the photographer; his keen interest in the lives of ordinary people, like his neighbours, was obvious, as was his fascination by the little things that most would not notice or find interesting.
The Yorkshire Post article says ‘While Mitchell may still be some way from being a household name, he has long been championed by fellow documentary photography Martin Parr and in another life would almost certainly have been a national treasure’.
Freeman, S (2016) Exposure at last for king of the snapshot. Yorkshire Post
Mitchell, P (2016) Planet Yorkshire. Impressions Gallery, Bradford.