Plans to open a new photography centre in London have sparked questions over what it means for Bradford’s National Science and Media Museum.

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is due to open its new photography centre in spring 2023 – making it the UK’s largest space for a permanent photography collection.

It comes six years after the V&A acquired over 400,000 world famous pieces from the media museum’s Royal Photographic Society collection.

The transfer of the images and artefacts made up 10 per cent of the media museum’s collection.

It featured some of the world’s earliest photographic images, pioneering colour photographs, cameras and much more.

The latest developments in the V&A’s photography centre vision left Eccleshill-born photographer Ian Beesley concerned.

But the media museum dispelled any suggestion that Bradford could lose out, and added the centre had been the V&A's "ambition for a long time". 

“Every year there’s something else about them making that bigger,” Mr Beesley said.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ian Beesley, pictured aboveIan Beesley, pictured above (Image: Newsquest)

“When it [National Museum of Photography, Film and Television] was established in 1983 it changed my career. I had access to the world’s greatest photographs. That opportunity has been taken away from the younger generation, particularly from the North of England, who aspire to be photographers and filmmakers.

“Everything gravitates towards the south. What we have here is a prime example of not levelling up.

“It’s about access. I used to have meetings and people used to say, well Bradford’s a difficult place to get to. If you turn that back London’s a difficult place to get to.

“When you think Bradford’s going to be City of Culture it seems a shame that six years ago we did lose what was a very important thing.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford's City of Culture slogan projected onto City Hall. Bradford's City of Culture slogan projected onto City Hall. (Image: Bradford 2025)

“There was no transparency about the decisions that were made.”

Shedding light on the situation, a spokesperson for the media museum said: “We already have and will continue to hold an internationally significant collection of photography and photographic technology at the National Science and Media Museum.

“Photography is a priority for the museum. Our focus emphasises the areas of photographic process and practice, and we are particularly interested in stories of how material images and technology (whether analogue or digital) were made and used.

“The Royal Photographic Society collection moved to the V&A in 2016 because it is more relevant to their remit than ours.

“We still have over 3 million photographs within our collections. The focus of these collections is photographs that support an understanding of the development of photographic processes (such as the Kodak collection), the ongoing cultural impact of photography (such as the Daily Herald archive) as well as photographic archives that have specific relevance to Bradford (such as the Impressions Gallery archive). 

“Visitors can currently enjoy a whole floor of the museum devoted to photography. We also have the Sound and Vision Galleries to come – a major redevelopment to showcase our collections, which will offer us many more opportunities to display our photography and photographic technology.

“We have recently digitised 50,000 photographs from the Daily Herald Archive in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture – opening them up to a global audience online.

“The new galleries at the V&A have been their ambition for a long time and we welcome the fact that more of the nation’s photography collections will be on display.”

The Telegraph & Argus approached the V&A museum for comment, but did not receive one by the time of publication. 

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