November 16th, 2009 admin

I’ve recently come across a few references to the work of the British photographer, Peter Mitchell (some of his work was included in ‘How We Are: Photographing Britain’ at Tate Britain in 2007) and I’m intrigued to find out more.

peter mitchell 01

Kingston Racing Motors, Leeds, 1974 / Hudsons Newsagents, Seacroft Green, Leeds, 1978 © Peter Mitchell

So far I’ve been able to garner this information-

In the 1970s, Peter worked as a truck driver for Sunco, and photographed the sights of Leeds on his journeys around the city. He had the first landmark colour photography exhibition in the UK at Impressions Gallery in York in 1979 (the gallery is now based in Bradford). Titled ‘A New Refutation of the Viking IV Space Mission’, the show depicted the factories and small shop owners of Leeds, all photographed in a very formal manner with the aid of a stepladder. The idea was that this is how Leeds might be seen by aliens departing from their spaceship when the Mission from Mars finally lands on the unsuspecting city!

peter mitchell 02

Small funfair in Roundhay Park, Leeds, 1982 / Home of the Underhill Brothers, Starbeck Lane, Stoke on Trent, 1982 © Peter Mitchell

In June 2007 Mitchell was included in a group show curated by Martin Parr at the Hasted Hunt gallery (now Hasted Hunt Kraeutler) in New York entitled COLOUR BEFORE COLOR. Parr selected a group of European photographers who were working with colour photography in the early 1970s either before or at the same time as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore in the US.

In an attempt to redress the balance, Parr’s exhibition attempted to demonstrate that an equally lively colour photography culture was evident in Europe both before and during the 70s. This work has been largely overlooked as it was not put together as a movement, nor was it promoted by high-profile institutions in the way that work by Eggleston, Shore and Joel Meyerowitz was.

In February 2008 Mitchell had an exhibition at the PSL Gallery in Leeds along with the work of Eric Jaquier called Strangely Familiar. Together they captured a bygone age in Leeds, with dance halls and coal yards, factories and mills.

You can read an interview with Mitchell and Jaquier in the Yorkshire Post here and see some of the photographs from the exhibition on the Guardian’s website here. There’s also an essay over on American Suburb X here written by Professor David Mellor.

Picture 1

Screengrab from Amercian Suburb X

Other than these links, there’s precious little about his photography on the web. If anyone knows of other references to Mitchell’s work, then please let me know.


  1. A nice bit of nostalgia here. I’d never heard of the guy, but Martin Parr probably has his number if you want to write to him.

  2. In the late 70s I used to haunt the Impressions Gallery in York, using their darkroom for my poor black & white prints. I remember the exhibition when Mitchell’s work was shown. At the time I was rather contemptuous of Arts Council-funded work, considering it too artsy. And yet, Mitchell’s work lodged in my mind, including the individual photos you’ve posted here, and it has been a surprisingly strong influence on the way I see the world now. It captured the urban landscape of Leeds exactly at that time – I lived in Harrogate but often photographed in Leeds with a friend who lived at the time in Harehills. It was a strange time, overshadowed by the Yorkshire Ripper. Peter Mitchell’s photographs captured it well and are well deserving of a re-showing. As I recall it, the pictures were shown alongside work by Chris Killip and Brian Griffin, and possibly Martin Parr (although this could be my memory playing tricks).

  3. Pete works at the art college in Leeds,if that helps!He also has a book of his Quarry Hill pictures,I know the college has a copy,but I have never seen one on Amazon



  4. Neil Rushby Says:
    May 22nd, 2011 at 10:43 am

    I picked up four postcards of Peter Mitchell’s photos from Leeds Art Gallery about twenty years ago. I love them to bits, they’ve survived several house moves. They remind me of the time up to my late teens when Leeds and other northern cities had a gritty character, before traces of their industrial past had been sandblasted away. I treasure soot stained urban finds these days, they’re so rare.

  5. […] I could find on the internet about him, although it isn’t a lot! Peter Mitchell Essay on ASX Goodbye World – True North The Colour Photographs Of Peter Mitchell – Simon Roberts  Strangely Familiar at PSL Share this:FacebookTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  6. PropagandaPhotos Says:
    February 8th, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    I’ve just reviewed Mitchell’s Quarry Hill work on my blog;

  7. Simon English Says:
    June 25th, 2013 at 12:33 am

    I lived/ was at college in Leeds in the early 1970’s. i am about to return for a 60th birthday party. While I am there I shall go to Mitchell’s exhibition:

    Peter Mitchell ‘A New Refutation of the Viking IV Space Mission’
    May 14th – July 20th 2013.
    The Gallery at Flannels, Vicar Lane, Leeds
    Free entry

    A New Refutation of the Viking IV Space Mission shows a vision of Leeds on the cusp between the world that Quarry Hill Flats tried to leave behind and the vision for the future that was ‘Leeds: Motorway City of the Seventies’. The exhibition is a remarkable document of a time that considered itself at the peak of modernism. As a counterpoint to Peter Mitchell’s work, a parallel gallery display by Leeds City College Photography Foundation students What is it to be Northern today? examines the same landscape thirty years on through the eyes and lenses of a new generation of photographers.

  8. He is about to have a monograph published Looks very interesting indeed

  9. Peter Mitchell’s work is now available in a Nazraeli Press book, Strangely Familiar

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