Our History

Bolton Documentary Photography was founded as a community-arts group of photographers in 1995. From its outset the aim of the group has been to capture and exhibit a pictorial record of life in Bolton.

The group takes the work of Humphrey Spender as its inspiration. Spender was the documentary photographer who produced the famous ‘Worktown’ collection of photographs in the 1930s for the ground breaking Mass Observation project – a visual and written survey of Bolton life, its streets, parks, pub-life, sport, local politics, work and annual holidays. The photographs taken then by Spender form an important collection within the Bolton museum archives today.

Bolton Documentary Photography is pursuing a modern equivalent of Spender’s 1930s work, with the aim of creating a visual archive depicting life in the town in the 20th/21st centuries and was fortunate to have had Humphrey Spender as the group’s Honorary Patron until his death in 2005.

Since 1995 we have produced over thirty exhibitions – often working in association with local bodies such as the Royal Bolton Hospital, Bolton at Home, Bolton Libraries and Museums, the Octagon Theatre, the Halliwell UCAN Centre, the University and the Greater Manchester Police. Our exhibitions have featured in many local venues including local libraries, the Bolton Art Gallery, the Museum, the Town Hall, the Octagon Theatre, Smithills Hall, the Royal Bolton Hospital, Bolton Parish Church, the University of Bolton and Weston Park in Shropshire. In 2006 the group held an exhibition in Bolton’s twin-town of Paderborn in Germany.

The group does not usually initiate a project unless it is supported financially and has an identified client to help guide the purpose and outcome of the work. Being a voluntary group, the resources needed to deliver each exhibition are modest, being sufficient to cover materials and out of pocket expenses. The time and equipment used by our photographers is given free.