WHEN Simon Sugden bought a camera from a friend he could never have imagined how life-changing it would be.

“It was around 20 years ago, and it was just was a cheap DSLR camera,” he says. “I had the next day off work so I took it out and set off into Bradford not knowing what I was doing or what I was going to take pictures of,” he says.

“I soon found myself surrounded by the amazing buildings we have in this city and felt drawn to them.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Abandoned machinery in a Bradford millAbandoned machinery in a Bradford mill

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Dalton Mills, KeighleyDalton Mills, Keighley

Simon, who was born in Ilkley, was particularly interested in buildings that had been abandoned, neglected and left in a decaying state.

“I found ways of accessing these buildings,” he says. “I met many of their owners and caretakers - most were very welcoming to the idea of me documenting theses incredible structures.

“When I went in, often I would spend ages just looking at the craftsmanship, it really was beautiful.”

As the years went by, Simon - a member of the Telegraph & Argus Camera Club - made friends with other urban photographers both locally and across the UK. “We would meet up and share locations - I have got to know some great people who I can ask for advice and meet to go exploring.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A disused Edwardian pool at Mosley Baths, BirminghamA disused Edwardian pool at Mosley Baths, Birmingham

Camera in tow, Simon has travelled to many areas of the UK. “I always wear good boots and carry plenty of torches and also a mask in case there is mould and dust. And I always go with a close friend.”

He adds: “I can go to a location and take a lot of shots but I am happier if I can capture just a few really good ones. I never move anything and I always use natural light.

“I don’t go anywhere I think could be too dangerous. All I leave behind are my footprints.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Inside the once bustling Richard Dunn Sports Centre, BradfordInside the once bustling Richard Dunn Sports Centre, Bradford

From former textile mills to abandoned farmhouses, churches, fairgrounds and leisure centres, Simon’s pictures ooze atmosphere, capturing the elegant architectural features and character that survives amid the decay.

“I don't use flash as I feel you get a far better result without. I use a canon EOS R Mirrorless camera and my go-to lens is a 14-24mm f2.8 Sigma Art lens.

“It’s a amazing bit of glass and it’s wide-angle lens is really good for urban photography,” he says.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Simon, shooting the interior of the former Odeon cinema in BradfordSimon, shooting the interior of the former Odeon cinema in Bradford

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Simon doing what he lovesSimon doing what he loves

He is thrilled by how his photographs have been received. “I am truly gobsmacked at how people have reacted to the images and getting them published has been just brilliant.”

Simon’s work appears regularly in newspapers and magazines. He has held exhibitions at Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley, including the 2019 show entitled Beauty in Decay and would love to hold further exhibitions in the Bradford district.

In 2020 a collection of images featured in Derelict Britain, Beauty in Decay, a book containing a selection of Simon’s remarkable pictures. The images include an attic room in a Masonic lodge in West Yorkshire, a living room in an old farmhouse in Snowdonia, a chapel in a disused nunnery in North Wales, a derelict mill in Bradford and an abandoned dodgems in Shipley Glen.

“My signature shot is the abandoned dodgems attraction in Shipley Glen,” he says. “I love that picture. When I first started taking photographs I tried so hard to find the owner - I went knocking on doors and looked online, and then by chance a woman connected to it saw me there, loved my work, and let me have access which was incredible.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Dodgems, Shipley Glen fun fairDodgems, Shipley Glen fun fair

A second book, Abandoned Britain, was published last September.

His work has also featured in the Royal Photographic Society Journal.

Some of the buildings in Simon’s pictures are returning to nature, others are little-touched by neglect, seemingly frozen in time - but all have a certain of beauty.

Simon is currently involved in a fascinating project documenting the development of Bradford’s new Darley Street Market. “It’s really interesting - I go on site every month, wearing a hard hat, safety goggles and boots, to document it,” he says. “I am doing it for Bradford Council.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Inside an abandoned church in West YorkshireInside an abandoned church in West Yorkshire

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A chapel organ,eerily silentA chapel organ,eerily silent

He would very much like to photograph Bingley Pool, which shut in 2021, but will hopefully re-open in the future, and the former Belle Vue School on Manningham Lane, an imposing stone building which is destined to be turned into a residential development.

His dream would be to go to Detroit in America to photograph the many abandoned public buildings, shopping malls and residential streets - the legacy of years of decay following the relocation of the automotive industries.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Inside a synagogue, LiverpoolInside a synagogue, Liverpool

Simon loves showing his pictures to his six-year-old daughter Jennie. “She loves looking at them,” he says. “She says: ‘Dad, I’m so proud of you.' She enjoys taking pictures herself now.”

Simon, who works as a support worker with Bradford Council, has won awards for his atmospheric photographs including one from the National Science and Media Museum's Drawn by Light competition for Lighting Up the Yard, an evocative image of Crossley Evans scrap metal dealers in Shipley.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Crossley Evans scrap recycling yard, ShipleyCrossley Evans scrap recycling yard, Shipley

Simon adds: “I have met some wonderful people in the course of my work. I would, in particular, like to thank Andrew Tingle, Martin Beaumont, Dad & Lad Explore and Karl Mann for all their help and support.”

"It is a real privilege to be able to go to these places and record them," he adds.