The QT

Sunday 19 May 2024

My life through a lens: Michael Bailey

Each week we’ll be asking a North East-based photographer to open up their archives and select a double handful of images which encapsulate life as they’ve captured it
Photographer Michael Bailey

Michael Bailey, 51, grew up in South East Northumberland and now lives in North Tyneside.

A digital marketer, designer and musician, the 51-year-old remembers taking his first photos on a school trip to France when he was 12 – using the bulk of his precious 24 shots attempting to get abstract close-up photos of waves on the beach.

“Meanwhile all my classmates were – quite sensibly – taking photos of each other standing in front of châteaus,” he says.

Michael blames/credits his dad for getting him interested in looking at the world through a lens.

“When I was a kid we used to head out for the evening with his Canon SLR to Newcastle, or somewhere rural to take photos. 

“I can’t say I understood any of the theory behind it, but it was always a great adventure and I loved it. I remember taking long exposures above a motorway somewhere, and it was very exciting. Great memories.”

Decades later, becoming a dad himself prompted him to invest in a small digital camera to capture family days out.

“Initially the kids were the main subject,” he says, “But they soon got sick of me so my attention turned to the actual places we were visiting. 

“Occasionally a shot would get a few positive comments from family and friends, which bolstered my confidence, and it grew from there.”

When asked what makes him a good photographer, he says: “I honestly can’t quantify it, and if I had to explain it to someone else, I wouldn’t know where to start. I just found my way and do what I do… thankfully, people seem to like it.”

Urban landscapes and architecture are at the top of his shot list when he’s planning a shoot.

“Nothing excites me more than aimlessly wandering around a town or city trying to capture it from a new and unique perspective. 

“That’s part of the reason I enjoy shooting around Newcastle. I’m familiar with pretty much every nook and cranny, so it forces me to be original. I love this city.”

We asked Michael to survey his photographic back catalogue and choose 10 images that are important to him. Here’s what he selected and why…

1. Westgate Hill, Newcastle

A slightly alternative view of a beautiful part of town, with – literally – a passing nod to its two-wheeled history. Sometimes you just get lucky.

2. St. Thomas’ Square and St James’ Park, Newcastle

Newcastle is full of opportunities to capture juxtapositions and different perspectives. I love the warm light of this shot.

3. The Mouth of the Tyne Festival, Tynemouth

I like this shot because it doesn’t look like street theatre. Everyone seems to be going about their business amid the strangeness.

4. Paris

One of the benefits of shooting the Micro Four Thirds system is that I can bring a long lens on a family holiday without it being intrusive. That focal length allows me to get some great perspectives including this view, during a beautiful sunset, from Jardin des Tuileries to La Défense. That’s nearly five miles in one shot.

5. North Shields Fish Quay

In 2021, The iconic Low Lights pub on North Shields fish quay was threatened by a fire in a neighbouring building. I can smile about this shot because the pies – and the pub – escaped unscathed.

6. Cable car precautions, Llandudno

Taken during the peak of COVID precautions. I love the symmetry. Part of me thinks that Storm and Po of Hipgnosis might have approved of this one. Probably wishful thinking, though.

7. Petticoat Lane Market

Finding juxtapositions is like shooting fish in a barrel when you’re in London. An ancient form of commerce, and its bullish offspring.

8. Winter twilight at Berwick upon Tweed

One of my favourite places. Berwick reacts wonderfully to the changing light, and doesn’t really feel like anywhere else.

9. Ray ‘Jacka’ Jackson, Central Arcade, Newcastle

When the three surviving members of Lindisfarne reformed to play a short set in Newcastle last year, I was invited to record the day’s events. Loads of smiles all ‘round from both the band and the audience which made it easy. This shot of Jacka is one of my favourites of the bunch.

10. The boy in Northumberland

How I got started, really… capturing the kids doing their thing in beautiful locations. There’s a great energy to this shot, and whenever I look at it I’m transported right back to the moment I pressed the shutter.


Since 1989 the Community Foundation has given £167m in grants to support communities across the North East

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