Central Leeds arson site under construction once again

Leonardo Building, located next to Leeds City Museum, caught on fire during the October holidays last year. Crowds of revellers and passers-by alike watched firefighters tackle the blaze from Millennium Square as safety cordons were slowly extended around the neighbouring Revolution cocktail bar.

Around 80 firefighters attended the scene, battling the three floor inferno throughout the night. West Yorkshire Police released a statement the day after the fire erupted announcing that the incident was to be treated as arson and appealing to the public for information.

A salvage worker at the construction site have said that, “They’re starting to rebuild the central parts of the structure. I think they [McLaren’s construction workers] were using a wood base on metal scaffolding, a lot of the old material we’ve been taking down is unusable so replacing it may take a while.”

Leonardo Building, the scene of the crime, is a Grade II listed building and used to house printing works in the late Victorian era. Leeds City Council recently distributed a £62 million redevelopment bid to renovate the building into student accommodation. McLaren’s property division aims to finish construction in time for the 2023/24 cohort of students.

Progress Update – Week 8

As part of my research into what photos I’d like to take for my final project, I decided to look at one point perspective this week. Having previously explored this in my research post, I’m now tempted to use it as the basis for one of my photos in my final project as I think it would tie in well to my street photography style and my candid aesthetic, as well as illustrating the feeling of being trapped while living in industrial towns.


The most important aspects of one point perspective are;

  • A vanishing point – to draw the audiences attention towards a particular point,
  • Parallel/perpendicular lines – Relative to where the photographs point of view is,
  • A balanced level, no dutch angles – to ensure the parallel and perpindicular lines are consistent and easily viewable,
  • Depth – sides of the image are used to create the perception of depth even when you’re not viewing the landscape in first person.


I found an area in Leeds on Belgrave Street near which, when viewed from the top end of the road, appears to lead straight onto the A64 in a straight, downhill path. This forms a near central one point perspective that stretches for near enough one mile.

I then found a long strip with large buildings either side, better illustrating the style of one point perspective photography.

I timed taking the image to attempt to include two people in the centre of the image to further draw ones attention down the straight line. I thought this image was quite good for establishing a OPP but I took the photo on a compact camera without a tripod so work is needed to develop the quality of both the image and the quality of my skills.

I also tried taking a photo to establish one point perspective where you otherwise wouldn’t think to look. I do think this somewhat worked but I should have aligned the corner of the lower wall of the stairs with the river leading under the bridge. While this image does need improvement, I’m happy with the attempt given that it still draws your eye down the river and into a single point.

To further develop my skills in preperation for my project, I will need to work on levelling my image, getting higher quality and finding more creative ways to utilise one point perspective. However, I am now much more confident in using one point perspective, and am very much interested in taking photos using it as part of my final project submission.

Progress Update – Week 12

In the final week of the module, I took my photos to the media lab in the business school to choose and edit my photos ready for the submission. I used photoshop to change the vibrancy, hue, saturation, exposure, brightness and image size of all my chosen images (plus a few spare ones in case I need to replace any later on) and cropped the photos to ensure they were aesthetically pleasing. I had already written a few sections of my copy, but had yet to write supplementary paragraphs for the newer photos as well as an interview from Jammy or anyone else related to the story. To this end, my work would now consist of finishing the copy and arranging the submission in a way that tells a story. I will include some of the photos I took that won’t make up part of my submission below;

In this photo you can see an abandoned brick building (perhaps an old community building or a religious centre) which, from the angle taken, looks bizarrely like an urban castle of sorts. The sharp-angled roof and the numerous columns and chimneys, as well as the now disused workers clocktower, all twist the community building into a more medieval look. I didn’t include this picture due to the lack of relevance to the story told, other photos included and the overall aesthetic of industry death I was going for. I do like how it portrays my a part of my theme, how industrial decay has precipitated and caused societal and economic decay, but I took the photo more to inspire myself creatively.

This photo, taken by the entrance to the Stockton-on-Tees flea market is one of my favourites even if it’s not to be included in my submission. I like the use of perspective in this photo; the flat wall at the back of the picture juxtaposed with the curved wall to the side as well as the open entrance to the market. I also like the bright colours of the door juxtaposed with the faded red bricks. The use of the rule of thirds draws the viewers eye to the door and the alternative perspectives either side create an aesthetically pleasing image. However, much like the previous image, there is little within the image that contributes to my story or the aesthetic I am aiming for so I am reticent to use the image in my submission.

Progress Update Week 11

Since the last progress update, I went back to Teesside to get more photos for my project and to find photos and interviews that would help me create my story. I took around 70 photos using a DSLR D7500 camera around specifically impoverished areas such as; South Bank, Grangetown, Billingham and Redcar as well as central Stockton.

Progress Update – Week 10


Over the Easter holidays, I went home to Teesside to begin taking pictures for my photojournalism project. I began doing so by heading to South Gare, the Southern side of the Tees estuary and the former home of large steel factories. While on the way there, I stopped near the old factory site where workers were demolishing the last part of the steel manufacturers. I took a few photos for my project, including some close up photos of an unusual looking factory piece which matched the aesthetic of unknowable industry and Lovecraftian machinery.

Part of the old Tees steel manufacturing factory being demolished. I liked how similar this was to the images and aesthetic I discovered in my research post, relating to the bizarre look that large machinery has.

Following this, I continued to South Gare and took some more photos which I will include in my photojournalism project. I will include some more photos below that I don’t intend to include in my project.

In this photo, I attempted to angle the turbines above the rock in a way that paints them as flowers, illustrating the replacement of nature with machinery and the ongoing destruction of Teesside’s natural beauty.
In this photo, I attempted to juxtapose the holiday boats with the heavy industry in the background to represent what could have been in Teesside. The context of this is that as a result of the mass scale industrialisation of the North East coast, the region has lost the opportunity of being portrayed as a nice holiday destination, damaging the North East’s reputation.
In this photo, I attempted to compare the now disused Transporter Bridge with the decayed wooden boat platform as a way of showing how decayed even the most well-kept parts of industrial Teesside are.

Alongside these photos, I have also done more research into a local artist with a very similar style to mine which I will feature in a third research post.

Bygone Hope – The Region of Decay

Failure to Comply

Pictured above is the South Gare, an area of reclaimed marshland which once housed the vast Redcar Steelworks and accompanying manufacturing plants. With a radius of around 10 miles, the former works once dominated the landscape of the Tees coast, a fitting image for a region whose growth and eventual decline was enacted by heavy industry. Towers visible in the background are all that remain of Dorman Long’s heritage as a steel powerhouse, however, even these solitary monuments to a distant time face demolition in coming days. The sign, now no more than a bitter reminder of the once intimidating nature of heavy industry, sits alone surrounded by former blast furnaces and coal storage land as evidenced by slag and coal rubble littering the land.

Decaying Heart

Redcar Steelworks, built in 1875 and mothballed (discontinued but kept in good condition) only 8 years ago, has been the site of demolitions and deconstruction in the last few years. Residents from across the Tees Valley, likely former workers or descendants of workers, gathered to witness the utter destruction of their livelihood and heritage in a haze of contempt and satisfaction. For many, the industry was a much-needed source of income in the country’s most deprived region, an opportunity to escape the squalor and work with pride as a collective of laborers bettering the region for all. For other’s, the blot of former industry was merely a reflection of the hardships they faced; the rapid destruction of industry mirroring the decaying region and the movement from a vital industrial landscape, to an abandoned region. The machinery pictured above, once an integral part of Teesside’s only remaining blast furnace, is now almost unrecognizable as an aspect of heavy industry. It even has an organic look to it, almost representing the no longer beating heart of Tees sides steelworks in a lovecraftian manner. The white powder, while appearing dangerous to begin with, is actually just ceramic dust from the inside of the furnace wherein steel would be directed into ‘melting pots’ or vessels.

Mal Purchase, a former instrument technician at the Lackenby beam mill which formed a part of the overall Redcar steelworks, details the long process that happened within the now disused and destroyed site.

Steel Meadow

In view of the former steelworks, the relatively new Redcar wind farm situated off the Tees Coast generates electricity for communities along the long stretch of marshland. The wind farm, built in 2013 and set to be decommissioned in only 22 years, makes up part of the new industry being developed in Teesside. Eco-friendly, net-zero energy production has been a key aspect for the redevelopment of Teesside following the decades long decline in employment and regional growth. Carbon capture projects soon to be built on the site of the former steelworks will aim to bring net zero energy production to Teesside in a matter of decades. The area surrounding the South Gare and the Tees coast was once home to marshland full of wildlife local to the region. Now, the area is little more than a wasteland of discarded rubble, former machinery, rubbled slag and steel landscapes.

Shadow of the Transporter

The Tees Transporter Bridge is perhaps the most iconic symbol of the steel production heritage of the Tees Valley. Connecting Port Clarence north of the river to Middlehaven south of the river, the bridge used to ferry workers from their purpose-built cottages across the Tees to the former dockyards and industrial sites dotted along the riverside. Commissioned as early as 1872 and built in 1907, the bridge, now listed as a Grade 2 listed building, made use of a gondola for vehicles ferrying workers and materials. Interestingly, given how small the gondola is and the sheer volume of laborers looking to travel across it to work, many a commuter used the stairs and ladders built up the Transporter’s legs to cross the bridge leading to peculiar scenes where workers would climb to the high platforms visible in the image and climb back down the other side. Unfortunately, the Tees Transporter bridge no longer operates due to a lack of financial support, further symbolizing the decay of Teessides industry and its effect on the local community. I have inverted the images colors for the purpose of altering the aesthetic of the image to give it a more otherworldly feel in a way similar to the remains of Redcar blast furnace seen above.

The North Sea

Pictured here is the edge of the Redcar wind farms and the Adelheid-S, a container ship (the largest to ever visit Teesside) leaving Teesport, likely heading to Antwerp, Belgium. The juxtaposition between the land once untouched and fraught with wildlife and the pollutant and disruptive container ship and turbine symbolize the land lost to heavy industry and the everlasting scars of pollution left along the Tees Coast. 

The Old Town Center

Middlehaven, the original town center of Middlesbrough, now sits along the former dockyards as an industrial estate filled with disused land and failed regeneration attempts. Not pictured in the image but at the center of the grass square is the old Middlesbrough Town Hall, now a rundown shell of what it used to be. Travelers who come and go from the estate and the greater Teesside area often leave their horses and ponies in less populated areas and return for them during the summer months. The area is representative of the true heart of Middlesbrough, both figuratively and literally. The new builds in the background of the photo juxtaposed with the abandoned ponies/horses and decrepit town hall is indicative of false regeneration; not improving areas that need economic investment, but building new high-rises away from the deprived former residential areas as a distraction from the real issues facing the town and the greater region.

Seaside Resort

Along the South Gare pier, caravans and holiday goers park up and stay alongside fishing shacks and small boat docks in an area far removed from the holiday resort you’d typically see them near. Dwarfed by the overwhelming nature of the industry, the idea of leisure in Teesside is far stretched. Attempts to create a sense of escape in a miserable environment are in vain when the depressing remnants of industry are visible wherever you may try to escape to.

Keep Smiling

Photographed in Oxbridge in Stockton-on-Tees near a metals shop, this metal fence was adorned with graffiti and faded paint, the highlight being the somewhat ironic ‘KEEP SMILING!’ sentiment. The neighborhood surrounding this fence is renowned for its high crime rate and high deprivation so the reminder to ‘KEEP SMILING!’ acts as both a brutal reminder of the area you find yourself in, and hopeful encouragement to push through adversity. The decaying paint lends to the former whereas the flowering weeds, regardless of whether they are weeds or not, reinforces the latter.


The man pictured above is Jammy. A second generation mod, Jammy now owns multiple stalls in the Stockton-on-Tees flea market, a small brick square tucked away on Stockton high street filled with market stalls selling vintage and retro trinkets. Beginning in 1813, the market has remained a staple of Stockton and is almost symbolic of the need for affordable market stalls amidst a deprived area. Nearby, through a back alley towards the end of a market, one can find the former site of the Castlegate shopping centre, soon to be developed into a waterfront park forming a key part of the regeneration project of Stockton high street. Jammy, having spent most of his life working in the flea market, is both concerned and excited for the project; concerned that the regeneration process may soon target the flea market for reconstruction, and excited over the prospect of more visitors to the high street.

If you think is bad…

Taken near the ‘KEEP SMILING!’ fence in an alley filled with needles, baggies and junk food packets, this graffiti states ‘IF YOU THINK THIS IS BAD THEN YOU SHOULD SEE WHAT OUR GOVERNMENT IS UP TOO!’ Symbolising the failure of educational institutions in deprived areas of the UK, the grammar for this sentence is incorrect in numerous places; uncapitalised ‘i’s, too is spelt incorrectly and the tag itself isn’t equally split across panels but is instead listed on one and trailed across 4 more. Conversely, the idea that the government is doing something worse than a community with a high crime rate displays a deeper level of knowledge on national politics as well as a sense of awareness of the area you live in and the reasons for it.

This, then, is a powerful statement in relation to Teesside, especially when considered in relation to both recent events unfolding around PD Ports and reported crab deaths, and past events regarding austerity and social funding cuts. Juxtaposing the stone and concrete fence with the lush green trees sheltered behind it, the image also conveys a trapped feeling, imprisoned away from natural beauty and peaceful serenity by fencing and barbed wire. This is reinforced by the truth of the garden behind the wall, which is in fact a train yard, somewhere equally as drab and industrial. The illusion that there is ‘greener grass on the other side’ when in reality even the trees are almost artificial in a sense implies that there is no escape from the misery of industrial Teesside. A mirage of beauty guarded by a grey wall tagged with a powerful sentiment all represent the feeling of hopelessness and imprisonment felt by many across Teesside and the neglect felt as a result of government abandonment.

This Is England

This image was taken next to the site of the old Middlesbrough Town Hall in Middlehaven. A man in a high visibility jacket can be seen clearly living in this shack made of recycled material and, for lack of a better phrase, dumped junk, symbolic of the abandonment of Teessides industry and in turn its workforce. Further symbolising regional decay, the Union Jack flying against a rainy background next to a homeless man’s shack and derelict road surfaces all surrounded by a modern looking fence all contribute to the ‘false regeneration’ seen so often around places once considered vital to the town and the region. Whilst not visible from this angle, the factories housing ICI (or Imperial Chemical Industries) can be seen past the shack, dwarfing the real problems facing the region, homelessness, unemployment and societal neglect, and reminding the abandoned generations of workforces of their previous financial stability.

Shortly after this photo was taken, a chained box van manned by 2 men arrived and began taking palettes and metal wires from the shack’s owner, paying him in cash while cautiously eyeing me with my camera. Evidently up to some illegal if not questionable business, the idea that a homeless man would have to turn to such lines of work to make do further identifies the impact that industry closures and regional decay has had. Even more illustrative of such problems facing Teesside, the area around Middlehaven square has begun gentrification; new builds, apartments under construction and active nightclubs dotted around Middlesbrough train station only 2 blocks away from clear signs of poverty and underdevelopment. This bitter irony is even further expanded upon due to the nearby Middlesbrough police station, further symbolising the apparent lawlessness present in Teessides society.

Interview with Sally Lavender

Sally, a former worker at the ICI plant in Redcar and the Tioxide plant north of the river in Billingham, details her experiences working in Teesside’s industry.

Where did you work and what did you do?

I worked for Tioxide UK Limited from 1995 to 2002, firstly as UK Accountant and then as UK Financial Controller managing the finance processes for plants at Greatham and Grimsby. Tioxide manufactured titanium dioxide pigment used as a whitener in paint and other products. Tioxide was a subsidiary of ICI when I joined but was sold to Huntsman  (a US Corporation) during my employment.

From 2007 until 2012, I worked for Ensus Limited as Financial Controller. Ensus was a start up company with private equity funding to build and run a bioethanol plant on the Wilton industrial site.

What was your experience like working in Teessides industry? As a woman, how did your experience differ from your male colleagues?

In my roles at Tioxide and Ensus, the workforce was probably 80-90% male, with the female staff largely employed in support functions such as Finance, HR and procurement.

At Tioxide, I was fortunate to work for a male boss who was very supportive of all his staff whether male or female. I did experience some frustration in my interactions with the male Plant Manager who didn’t appear to respect some of the female managers such as myself. He was more comfortable interacting with the plant team and didn’t value the role Finance played in supporting the business.

The original directors of Ensus were mainly ex-ICI senior managers. My Tioxide experience and Chemistry degree did mean that I was more respected by the largely male plant team. However, there was a feeling of a ‘boy’s club’ that I was excluded from. As at Tioxide the Finance and HR functions were mainly staffed by women. I was the most senior woman out of 100 employees and had to speak up on several occasions to ensure fairness in pay and bonus compared to my male counterparts.

Were you affected by industry closures during your time working there?

The Ensus plant had to close on a number of occasions due to design issues and also because market conditions made it uneconomic to run. The plant staff were therefore often under utilised. The Finance team were often even busier during shutdowns creating forecasts and supporting efforts to raise finance. This could be very stressful.

Having worked with GP Practices in Stockton and Middlesbrough and seen the high levels of deprivation and poor health, I don’t feel very hopeful for Teesside.

Progress Update – Week 9

This past week, for my photojournalism project, I aimed to take some more photos using techniques I have researched in the past in preparation for the coming week when I will take most, if not all, of the photos I need to complete the project. I was away for a week and a half and had troubles accessing my emails until recently so I struggled to update my progress last week, however, I used my time on holiday to further practice my photojournalism skills.


Glasgow is a city with an American-inspired grid system so there are many long, straight roads that allow for one point perspectives. Alongside this, artificial lights from bars, vehicles and streetlights also make the image much more pleasing aesthetically. This image will prove to be beneficial to my final project given it’s similarity to what I am intending to capture, i.e, a semi-busy street with artificial lighting with a single point perspective and an element of industrial influence. In this case, the industrial influence is represented by the more recently built roads, newer cars and modernised buildings next to the much older St George’s Square and adjacent Grade 2 listed buildings.

This photo of Bamburgh Castle utilises single point perspective in a different way, using the non-parallel/non-perpendicular fence lines to draw the readers attention towards the castle. Even with a lack of a straight line towards the castle, the fence leading from the furthest edge of the first field and the different colour fields either side of it draw attention towards the end of the fence where the castle is. While this may not resemble the idea I had for my photojournalism project, it’s still beneficial to my research given the attempt at establishing a single point perspective via more creative methods.

I also think this may inspire me to include a photograph similar this, juxtaposing the large industrial buildings present in Teesside’s marsh-land with the much older heritage buildings. An example of this would be Middlesborough’s town hall in the background juxtaposed by the Transporter Bridge or Riverside Stadium in the foreground. This would represent the over-domineering industrial history and the often forgotten Victorian or earlier history.


This week, I will be situated in Teesside and will therefore have the opportunity to go and take photos for my project. I will further research techniques and locations before I go but am confident in my ability to complete this task within the next week. Upon my return to Leeds, I will use the skills picked up in the workshops to edit the photos using digital software. I will also ensure my previous tasks are completed and if finished early, I will attempt to complete some of the extra credit work given to us via the workshop tasks.

I will update this page with my preparation progress and any further research, but after taking my photos, I will create a new research post next week to focus more on them, the challenges I have faced, solutions to them and my steps going forward.

In addition to this, upon further researching styles and techniques, I will also create a second and a third draft research post to document such findings (given that a few of the photos are not creative commons licensed.)

Leeds 160 Year Old Tiger and it’s 4000 Mile Journey

If you go down to the city today, you’re sure to catch a surprise!

Leeds City Museum has a number of fascinating objects to behold, from 3000 year old mummies, to the complete skeletons of now-extinct birds. However, one of their most intriguing displays is that of a Bengali tiger from the Deyrah Dhoon valley of Northern India. First hunted and killed in 1860 by British Colonel Sir Charles Reid of the Indian Army, the tiger’s skin was brought back to Britain and displayed at the Great London Exposition only two years later.

Following the Exposition, the skin was purchased by William Gott, an art collector local to Leeds who commissioned expert taxidermist Edwin Henry Ward to remount the skin onto an accurately scaled figure to then display at the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society.

Since first being displayed at the Great London Exposition, rumours about the Leeds Tiger and why it ended up being hunted and killed have been rife. One of the more popular yet unsubstantiated stories spread about the tiger is that it was responsible for the deaths of 40 bullocks in only 6 weeks.

Following the purchase of Philosophical Hall in 1966, the Leeds Tiger was moved into the Leeds City Museum where it has remained ever since, attracting many a visitor and educating all on life in Britain and it’s colonies at the height of the British Empire.

RAW Images Workshop

In workshop 6, we were instructed on the methods of taking RAW file photographs and their usefulness in better capturing detail and improving picture quality. RAW file images are also better for post-production work as they contain more information per pixel than JPGs (more information to manipulate therefore more editing options.) As my phone’s camera is quite a downgrade from DSLR cameras, I will attempt to use a better camera during the week and take some better RAW file photos so that I can edit them and post them here to better improve my research.


This first image was taken using my Android S8 using a RAW file setting. I thought that the car and the boat were quite dark and not will coloured so I attempted to fix this in post-production. I also felt that there was a general grey undertone to the image so I aimed to improve the vibrance, saturation and contrast using Photoshop.


In post production, using Photoshop, I attempted to brighten the image using the Brightness/Contrast and Exposure adjustment layers. I set the brightness to 24 and the contrast to 19, brightening the image while ensuring the clouds we still visible. I then set the exposure to -0.28, the offset to +0.0042 and the gamma correction to 1.02. To add some colour to the image, I used the Vibrance and Hue/Saturation adjustment layers. I set the vibrance slider to +18, the saturation slider to +20. I then also set the hue to +12, the other saturation slider to -3 and the lightness slider to +3. This brought out the colour of the grass, the boat and the car while subtly brightening the background, thus making the image more aesthetically pleasing.

Juno’s Layers Practice

In today’s workshop, we began practicing with picture editing on photoshop. We used some of the photos taken in the last few weeks of this module to crop, brighten and saturate our images to make them more aesthetically pleasing. I have previously edited photos in photoshop using basic techniques, however, I haven’t previously used adjustment layers.

Image 1

In editing this image, I decided to change the saturation, the vibrance, the brightness and the contrast. Using the vibrance adjustment layer, I set the vibrance to +41 and the saturation to +8, thereby boosting the warm colours in the image. Using the hue/saturation adjustment layer, I further emphasised the intensity of warm colours in the image by setting the saturation to +7 and the lightness to +4. I felt that the image was too dark and that the colours still weren’t as aesthetically pleasing as they could be so using the brightness/contrast adjustment layer, I set the brightness to 43 and the contrast to -17. This brightened the image and drew more of the colours out. I then cropped the image to a 4:3 ratio and moved Rosie to the side to better fit the rule of thirds.

Image 2

My second photo, taken as part of workshop task 1, needed a lot of work as it was not very well lit and was too large to be aesthetically pleasing. I first used the vibrance adjustment layer to edit the images colours. I moved the vibrance slider to -7 and the saturation slider to +4, a slight but noticeable improvement. I then created a brightness/contrast layer. I set the brightness to 49 and the contrast to -11. I then cropped the image using the golden spiral to draw more attention to the construction workers while simultaneously focussing the image onto the building more. In doing so, I believe the image worked better with the story it was linked to.