Salford photographer shirley baker

The work of Salford photographer, Shirley Baker, has been published in a new book. 

Shirley Baker was born in Kersal in 1932 and began taking pictures as a young girl.

Now, five years after her death in 2014, ‘Uncovering The Legacy of Shirley Baker’ has been published to show another side of her work and move away from the street photography she became known for around Salford and Greater Manchester.

Shirley’s daughter and manager of the Shirley Baker Estate, Nan Levy, said of her mother: “I realised how much of her work had never been seen. When she was on her holidays she would always have a camera.

“This new book shows a variety of pictures.”

salford photographer shirley baker
A young lad weaves his racer through washing and playing children on this residential terraced street in Salford, Manchester. Photograph by Shirley Baker, 1962. © Estate of Shirley Baker / Mary Evans Picture Library

A lot of Shirley’s previously published works have been of the North Manchester streets that she had grown up in when Salford underwent construction work in the 1960s.

Nan said: “There was a demolition programme near her childhood home in Kersal. She went to go and have a look and felt compelled to go back day after day. She saw how houseproud people were even though everything was demolished around them. There was a community spirit even with the demolition of peoples’ homes.”

Shirley’s relationship with Salford has been present in a large part of her work. The photographer had exhibited at Salford Museum & Art Gallery when her career was just getting started in 1986. Her work had rarely come to wider public attention until now, when a collection of her photographs titled ‘Here Yesterday and Gone Today’ was displayed at the Salford Art Gallery, showing the resilience of working class communities in Salford and Manchester at the time.

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salford photographer shirley baker
Boy and man outside the George Mason (Manchester) Limited Licensed Betting Office in Salford, Greater Manchester, 1971. © Estate of Shirley Baker / Mary Evans Picture Library


Nan also said that her mother had been involved in the opening of Salford’s Lowry Theatre. She had met the Salford 20th Century painter, L.S Lowry, in the 1970s and her photography was showcased alongside his paintings to celebrate the opening of the theatre in 2000.

Nan said: “She twinned with Lowry for the opening of the theatre in the 2000s. The Queen came for the official opening and she and my mum had lunch.”

Alongside her documentary photography, Shirley spent time studying medical photography at the now closed Pendlebury Children’s Hospital in Salford. Nan said that Shirley worked there as their in-house medical photographer. Her work from this time was exhibited in 1989 at the Viewpoint Gallery on Crescent Road, Salford, which has since closed down.

The photographer also spent time teaching her craft at Salford College of Art in the 60s, where she stayed for 15 years. Her photography career spanned 50 years and she’s taken countless photographs of the city that she was born in.

The new book that documents some of Shirley’s lesser-known work has been put together by writer and curator Lou Stoppard with a UK launch taking place on 11 December. The launch of Uncovering The Legacy of Shirley Baker will take place at the Tate Modern in London, with a talk from Lou and Nan about Shirley’s extensive photography work.

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