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In Pursuit of Perfection: The Yorkshire Photographic Union Competition at the National Science and Media Museum

The National Science and Media Museum in Bradford is set to host entries to the Yorkshire Photographic Union competition for the first time, including prints from 2020’s competition as well as the digital images selected from this year’s contest.

The Union’s annual exhibition, held at a different venue each year, showcases selected images from its membership. This year’s show is titled In Pursuit of Perfection: The Yorkshire Photographic Union Competition and takes place at the National Science and Media Museum. Due to lockdown, it combines both 2020 print and 2021 digital competition entries and will first launch on the museum’s website with the 2020 prints on Friday 16 April 2021, before physically opening to the public with the full selection of images once government guidelines allow. The annual exhibition celebrates both the artistic ability and technical skill of the Union’s membership and each year attracts around 3,000 entries, with 373 due to be displayed in gallery, including 201 prints and 172 digital images.

The impact of Covid-19 has been felt by photography clubs around the UK, and like many organisations they have had to adapt to operating virtually. The winning images for the 2020 competition were selected before the first lockdown in spring last year, but this year’s competition was judged virtually for the first time in the Union’s history.

The exhibition will include photographs in the categories of architecture, sport, nature, travel, and young photographer, among others. There are 13 awards in total, 11 individual awards, one Society Award, and one Best in Show to the individual with the most acceptances and awards.

Marilyn Roberts DPAGB. BPE3*, President of the Yorkshire Photographic Union, commented:

“The Annual Exhibition is the high point of the Yorkshire Photographic Union’s calendar. The Exhibition is a showcase for the best amateur photography in the county. I am thrilled that, despite the pandemic, our members have continued to support the Exhibition and are just as keen as ever to present the best of their images.”

Peter Sykes, President of Bradford Photographic Society, added:

“As the club from which the Yorkshire Photographic Union sprung, Bradford Photographic Society are delighted to be the nominal host club for this year’s Exhibition.

“We are a normal camera club offering a friendly welcome to anyone from absolute beginners to accomplished photographers. However, our collection of trophies, donated over the years by the great names in our past, are competed for internally each year and remind us of our long history. Our programme consists of talks on all aspects of our hobby, workshops on techniques, and practical sessions both indoors and out. The social aspect of our meetings is central to our existence but, happily, Zoom has allowed us to continue through these trying times, even allowing us to have speakers well beyond our normal reach.

“We are thoroughly impressed by this museum-scale exhibition, and we are pleased to have contributed to the grassroots input of the project.”

The Yorkshire Photographic Union is a federation of photographic clubs principally based within Yorkshire and is one of 15 regional federations that form the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain. It was the first of the UK’s regional photographic federations and was created following the success of Bradford Photographic Society’s ‘Pictorial Photographic Exhibition’, held at the old Bradford Art Gallery on Darley Street in 1898–99. Some notable photographers have held positions in the Union, including Alexander Keighley, pictorialist photographer and founder member of the Brotherhood of the Linked Ring, whose work can be found in the National Science and Media Museum’s collection.

In its over-120-year history, the Union has seen a huge number of technological changes in photography, including the shift from printed images on fabric and lantern slides in the 1910s, to the introduction of colour prints in the 1960s. In addition, it has seen a shift in the criteria used to judge photographs, a subject also covered in the exhibition. Perhaps the most significant development in recent years has been the introduction of digital and mobile phone photography, which is explored through objects and equipment from the museum’s own world-class collection, uncovering how this has broadened access to photography.

Phillip Roberts, Associate Curator of Photography and Photographic Technology, added:

“The birth of the photographic clubs in the 19th century was a major breakthrough in the development of photographic practice. These clubs emerged as a way for fellow photographers to share knowledge and support one another to learn and improve.

“First among these was Leeds Photographic Society in 1852, followed soon after by Bradford Photographic Society in 1860—eventually banding together to form the Yorkshire Photographic Union. That this union of photographers is still going strong today is a testament to the work of generations of people. I am proud our museum is providing a home for their annual competition and offering a space to look back over the 120 years since the Union first convened in Bradford. Visitors can see the latest photographs from Yorkshire alongside historic examples from our collection and discover just how much has changed—from old glass plate cameras to digitally-altered images; Victorian travelling street cameras to mobile phones.”

The National Science and Media Museum is currently closed to the public in line with government guidelines and plans for the reopening of the museum will be announced as soon as possible. Once the museum can reopen adhering to Covid-19 safety measures, the physical In Pursuit of Perfection: The Yorkshire Photographic Union Competition exhibition will be open to the public until Sunday 27 June 2021.

From 16 April, the 2020 images as part of In Pursuit of Perfection: The Yorkshire Photographic Union Competition will be available on the National Science and Media Museum website. Later this year the full selection of images from 2020 and 2021 will be on display in the museum.

Find out more at the Yorkshire Photographic Union website and Bradford Photographic Society website.


For further details or images please contact: Katie Canning, Press and PR Manager, National Science and Media Museum: / 0 1274 203 027

Notes for editors

The National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, West Yorkshire, opened in 1983, and has since become one of the most visited UK museums outside London . The museum explores the science and culture of image and sound technologies, creating special exhibitions, interactive galleries and activities for families and adults. It is home to three cinemas, including Europe’s first IMAX cinema screen and the world’s only public Cinerama screen outside the USA. Entry to the museum is free.