Meet the Yorkshire photographer who has captured derelict buildings across the UK

As an exhibition of his pictures of abandoned and derelict buildings opens in Bradford, photographer Simon Sugden speaks to Yvette Huddleston.

Dodgems in an abandoned fairground, from the Beauty in Decay exhibition.

There is something achingly poignant about a crumbling old building. Layers of history and generations of human stories are contained within them. And there is a kind of beauty in that.

It is this resonance – the connection with the past and the process of nature reclaiming manmade sites – that shines through in the work of photographer Simon Sugden, whose exhibition The Beauty in Decay is currently at the Trapezium Gallery in Bradford.

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Architecture and dereliction have fascinated Sugden, who is based in Riddlesden near Keighley, from the moment he first picked up a camera 12 years ago and taught himself to use it.

A fireplace within a derelict house.

Now aged 52, he came to photography relatively late in life, and hasn’t looked back since.

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Photographer Simon Sugden's Yorkshire exhibition shows 10 years of abandoned bui...

"I feel that when these buildings go into that state of decay they become beautiful in a different way. It is sad sometimes but I think it is great for people to see that. It might open their eyes to realise what we do have.

“A lot of people don’t seem to look up any more; they are all looking down, mostly at their phones, and they are missing out on all the wonderful architecture we have around us.”

An old public swimming pool features in the show.

Sugden was able to capture some of that inspiring architecture when he was invited to photograph regeneration projects in Bradford such as the magnificent, much-loved art deco Odeon building and the historic tunnels of Sunbridge Wells running under the city centre, which are now home to a number of new bars and restaurants.

“It was fantastic working on both those projects,” says Sugden. “I learnt so much, about the history of the places and about composition.”

His images, which cover the whole of the UK, are hauntingly evocative. There is a timeless elegance about them – and they could be anywhere in the world.

He says he deliberately doesn’t give the pictures titles in order to retain their anonymity and a sense of mystery. While they eloquently communicate the effects of the passage of time, they are not tied to place, although the eagle-eyed will recognise some of the more local locations.

All of them are imbued with a warm glow thanks to Sugden’s clever use of light. “I tend to shoot without flash or anything,” he says. “I like natural light. On the odd occasion I might use a torch but I very rarely do that.

"My late dad, who was a painter working mostly in acrylics, gave me some great advice once. He said ‘a good picture is always about light and shade’ and I can hear his words when I am working.”

The exhibition at Trapezium features around 20 images. These, along with many others, will also appear in a book of Sugden’s work Derlecit Britain: Beauty in Decay to be published in May.

He was approached by the publisher after the success of an exhibition of his photographs at Cliffe Castle last year. “The book is a bit like a dream come true,” says Sugden. “I never thought that would happen.”

At the Trapezium Gallery, Bradford until March 14. Derelict Britain: Beauty in Decay is published by Amberley Publishing on May 15.