Chris Harrison (centre) with Trevor Griffiths and Andy Vaines of Bradford-WWI Film School

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On 14th November, staff and students from the Film School joined invited guests at the National Media Museum for the opening of Copper Horses, the eagerly awaited exhibition by Chris Harrison, Bradford Photography Fellow for 2012/13. The prestigious fellowship started in 1984, jointly funded by Bradford College and the museum (then the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television), with the University of Bradford becoming partners six years later.

Chris Harrison - photography by Andy VainesPrior to introducing work by the sixteenth incumbent of the fellowship, Jo Quinton-Tulloch, Director of the National Media Museum, emphasised the teaching element of the award and that the work with students at Bradford College and the University of Bradford meant that the Fellowship had a legacy far beyond the work exhibited and added to the museum’s impressive photography collection. David Smith, Dean for Higher Education at Bradford College, suggested that that the enriched interactions between students, institutions and Photography Fellow were not only of academic and professional merit, but that the exhibition formed a compelling highlight in Bradford’s cultural offer which  was of global interest. Charlie Meacham, Course Leader in Photography at the University of Bradford, paid tribute to the unswerving commitment of all three partners who had worked together so effectively to support such a longstanding and worthwhile scheme.  

A successful commercial and art photographer for twenty-three years, brought up in Jarrow but now living in Oslo, Chris returned to his roots to explore family relationships, class and the British industry though the working life of his father, an industrial metalworker. Jack Harrison endured a tough, exacting and enduring job to support his family, and the fifty years spent in this work shaped his identity, relationships and community. The seventy-five photographs in the exhibition document  and celebrate the details of his working life and recreation. Copper Horses was the name given to a copper component of electrical substations which frustrated his father as the time consuming nature of drilling these unyielding objects could reduce the pieceworkers’ wages.

Chris Harrison spoke of pride in the past and the present; that the labour and achievements of the past should not be forgotten, or dismissed, and that Britain was still home to high quality manufacturing.

 “This exhibition is about my father - he is still alive but doesn’t travel this far south for anything! The work is close to my heart. I am very taken up with notions of memory and heavy industry. I come from a place where art and photography are not high on the agenda. I tried to get across to the students that there is no magic formula - it just takes hard work and dedication.”
Chris Harrison, Bradford Photography Fellow

 The evocative nature of these pictures was best summed up by Charlie Meacher, who said, “I can smell the grease, the oil and the metallic machinery so clearly evidenced here.” 

During his Fellowship, Chris worked with both further and higher education photography students at all levels to produce a body of work entitled Families, Friendships & Faces. His contribution was greatly appreciated by his colleagues. 

“Chris formed excellent relationships with the students. He has been so encouraging, always finding the positive and giving detailed advice.”
Andy Vaines, photographer and lecturer at Bradford College-WWI Film School

 Copper Horses runs from 15th November 2013 to 9th February 2014 in Gallery Two, at the National Media Museum.