Bill Major, artist and photographer

Bill Major
Bill Major
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Bill Major, who has died at 83, was an artist and photographer who captured many and varied images of Yorkshire life in an individual and idiosyncratic style.

He had learned his craft studying contemporary sculpture at Leeds College of Art, under the guidance of Harry Phillips.

Bill Major's view of York Minster

Bill Major's view of York Minster

After National Service, he took up teaching at Bradford College of Art, and later returned to teach on the Leeds fine art course.

But he had a parallel and successful freelance career as a professional photographer in the fashion world and beyond. For several years in the 1960s and 70s he led a specialist course among the international names from the art, theatre and music worlds who gathered at the renowned summer school at Barry, South Wales.

His many commissions included participating in the production of a facsimile copy of the first road map, drawn up in the 18th century. In later years, he turned to digital art, using Photoshop to produce large scale prints of architecture and buildings, from a small, half-timbered old structure hidden down a ginnel in Pontefract, to panoramic views of entire streets such as Briggate and the Victoria Arcade in Leeds, and High Petergate looking towards York Minster. There were also high-quality images of the sites of Venice.

His method was to take close-up shots of a very small section, moving the tripod slightly further along until he had accumulated many hundreds of shots.

He then merged and manipulated the complete set into one long picture, which was printed up to several feet tall by three yards long. The technique allowed the viewing of scenes which, for reasons of shooting space, could not normally be seen as a whole, and the result is an archive of unappreciated architectural treasures fully visible for the first time.

At the 2005 Leeds Art Fair, he was handed a Best Artist award for his work, which he also later exhibited in Huddersfield.

He confessed to being “pleasantly surprised”.

“I’ve spent hundreds of man-hours making my pictures so it’s very rewarding to have them recognised, especially as it’s my first time as an exhibitor,” he said, after the Leeds event.

He remained active even during his last year, creating extraordinary life sized portraits of eccentric people dressed up for the Gothic weekend in Whitby and for Second World War themed events in North Yorkshire, awash with 1940s nostalgia.

His plan had been to show them locally in the windows of shops where those involved could see themselves.

Mr Major, who lived in Pontefract all his life, died after a two-year illness.