PIGEONS flap madly in a Bradford alley, a woman stands outside a shuttered launderette, a man draws on a cigarette against a backdrop of urban graffiti.
These are among the many striking images captured by Bradford-based photographer John Cade, who has an ability to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Passengers on a bus, an Asian woman walking past a former textile mill, a dejected-looking youth on a city centre bench, he depicts life as he sees it.
His stark evocative, images are all the more memorable for their normality - this is Bradford as we know it.
John’s images of his home city are just part of a wider selection of work by the talented photographer and film maker, whose website johncadefilmandphotography.co.uk showcases images of locations including Paris and the English coast.
Montmatre in the mist, rain-lashed reflections of the Eiffel Tower, tourists at Notre-Dame Cathedral - his images veer from cityscapes to what he does best: people going about their daily lives. An incongruous shot of a nun clutching carrier bags as she walks along a busy beach on a hot day, a young lad drenched in City Park, and the many colourful characters of Bradford.
Raised on Holmewood estate, photographs and films captured his attention from an early age. “I remember my family had a lot of old black and white photography up in the house - pictures of movie stars and musicians mainly - and I used to love looking through old photo albums of my family in the 60s and 70s from before I was born.
“When I was younger my main thing was movies - I was obsessed with them and would watch anything I could get my hands on. Later, I started noticing things like directors' styles and editing techniques and certain looks of movies, especially American films from the 1970s. It opened up a new world to me, a different way of looking at things. I believe those movies inspired my photography style.”
Initially, he leaned towards acting, studying performing arts, but soon realised that his talents lay behind a lens. He was thrilled to be accepted at the Northern Film School at Leeds Metropolitan University, starting in 2003.”
John was in his late teens when he began taking photographs regularly, but it was only five years ago, when he became frustrated at not having the resources or finance to make short films, that he started photographing Bradford street scenes “in a serious way”.
“That I’ve gone so deeply into it is kind of a happy accident,” he says. “I started taking an interest in some great photographers like Henry Cartier Bresson, Don McCullin and Saul Leiter and as I looked at their work and discovered more about the world of street photography.
“I realised that there wasn’t anything like that going on in Bradford, at least not in a way that I’d yet found. I wanted to capture my Bradford, the way I experience it, the things I see when I walk around that are so easy to miss. The interesting thing about Bradford for me is that it wears its scars so openly.”
One of the interesting things about photographing Bradford, he says, is seeing how lifestyles and cultures shift and change from one area to the next.
“There so much going on culturally on Bradford's streets that you don't see anywhere else. Where else can you see a woman shopping in traditional Muslim clothing walking alongside a man dressed as a cowboy? It is a city of contradiction and contradictions are great for photography as they help tell a story and raise questions. There’s a fascinating contrast going on between the old and the new, the successful and the poor.”
“You can see the industrial history of the city standing right beside brand new developments. I look back at pictures of the town centre I took only four years ago and some of the streets look completely different, whereas some of the areas on the outskirts haven't changed for decades. Right now we’re really bouncing back in a big way and it’s fascinating to see Bradford growing again. I hope some of that success spreads to some of the poorer areas and starts to bring people together more.”
John notices things that would pass other people by - bits of horse hair on barbed wire, litter on the road, reflections in puddles.
“I think once you’ve opened up that part of your brain and you’re looking at things that way it almost becomes second nature. I might be halfway through a conversation with someone and I’ll notice something that might make an interesting image so I’ve got my ears on one thing and my eyes on another.
“No matter what I’m doing I’m always looking around for potential shots. It gets quite tiresome for whoever is on holiday with me when I make them stop every five minutes while I get a shot or run across the road to take a picture something I've seen on the floor.”
He loves the mood and atmosphere that black and white photography creates. “It has a way of transforming every day scenes into something dramatic. It has a timeless quality.”
He finds his art relaxing and therapeutic. “Photography forces you to look outwards instead of inwards. I love that a single image can mean completely different things to different people. When you take a picture that you know works it’s a real buzz. It sounds like cliché, but I love the feeling of capturing a moment that will never happen again.”
John recently exhibited with the Bradford Photographic Society at the newly refurbished Shipley Library. “That was my first exhibition. I’m also in talks with The Big Red Bus Station in Leeds, a new bar that holds regular exhibitions. My work is also on display and for sale in a shop called Hustler’s in Sunbridge Wells.”
John still holds down a “day job” but his work is growing in popularity. "I’ve started to sell a lot more prints and I’d like the number of exhibitions to grow and be making enough money from photography to devote all of my time to it.”
He is also working towards producing a photography book about Bradford.