Peter Mitchell - Memento Mori


A long overdue facsimile reprint of a title that has been out of print for many years. Quarry Hill Flats was a large housing estate, built on continental lines and peculiar to Leeds. The largest and most modern of their kind in Europe, housing around 3,000 people, the Flats were constructed during the 1930s as part of a 'great social experiment' to accommodate an entire urban community. But soon the daring vision for the future began to crumble - literally - and by the 1950s the Flats were infamous. During the 1970s the decision was made to demolish the 'stone jungle' and Peter Mitchell arrived in Leeds in time to record the passing of the great estate. This is not merely a record of demolition but a tribute to the power of photography, to those who engineered and built the Flats, to the people who lived and died in the Flats and to the city of Leeds itself. Using archive material - much of it private and unpublished - Memento Mori details the ideas behind the Flats, their construction, and their eventual demise. Why did it fail? Was it some flaw in the grand design, or a combination of factors? And what did the inhabitants themselves actually feel about their surroundings? Memento Mori offers answers to some of these questions, but poses may more.

"I photograph dying buildings and Quarry Hill was terminal by the time I got to it. Times change and I know there was no point in keeping Quarry Hill Flats. But what it stood for might have been worth remembering.”

Peter Mitchell, born in 1943, has been quietly building a career for 40 years. Living and working in Leeds for much of his life, Mitchell treats his surroundings with a unique sense of care that is evident in his work. An essential part of the colour documentary scene in the 1970s and ‘80s, Mitchell’s landmark show A New Refutation of the Space Viking 4 Mission has had an immeasurable impact on contemporary photographic culture. Mitchell has never been a prolific publisher of work; 1990’s Memento Mori was re-published in a new edition in 2016, and his latest work, the eccentrically autobiographical Some Thing means Everything to Somebody, was published in 2015.