Sefton Samuels is one of Britain’s most iconic photographers, but the path there has weaved via the old mills of Yorkshire and seedy jazz clubs around the North West of England.

Sefton was born in Manchester in 1931. He left Manchester Grammar School at 16, trained in textiles and went to work in mills around Yorkshire. But a camera was never far from his hand. Nor was a pair of drum sticks.

An accomplished jazz drummer, Sefton at one point turned semi-professional playing alongside the likes of Karl Denver. The highlight was an appearance at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester with the Paul Beattie Skiffle Group – winning North West skiffle group of the year.


In 1960, Sefton was named the Manchester Evening News amateur photographer of the year – and headed back to his native city as it began to swing. It was during the sixties on the gritty streets of Manchester that he developed his trademark style of poignant photojournalism edged with a black northern humour. He became a supplier of photos for national newspapers, BBC and Granada TV – and ran the Sefton Photo Library until the early 1990s. He still lives in Manchester, England.


  • Sefton’s collection published by Ebury/Random House – Northerners: Portrait of a no-nonsense people. Watch a report about Sefton and Northerners on BBC Two’s The Culture Show. Northerners sold out all 15,000 copies acquired by the Book People
  • Seventy pictures in the National Portrait Gallery, ten photos in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s National Collection of the Art of Photography - and more than a hundred in total in national collections
  • Northerners, along with Sefton's self-published jazz and classical books, have all been accepted into the V&A Museum’s National Art Library
  • Sefton Samuels: Jazz Legends – exhibition at Kings Place gallery as part of 2010 London Jazz Festival
  • Major exhibition - Sod Carnaby Street - at Proud Gallery, London, showing another side of the 1960s 
  • Solo exhibition at Barbican Centre of jazz photos
  • Winner of Royal Academy of Arts Eyewitness street photography award 2011
  • Lowry pictures shown at Royal Academy
  • Member of the Distinctions panel for the Royal Photographic Society, and exhibited at the RPS’ International Print Exhibition
  • Winner in the M.I.L.K. contest – the world’s largest photographic competition which attracted entries from 17,000 photographers from 164 countries, which then exhibited in New York, London and Australia
  • George Best photo used on cover of Paul Weller album
  • Addressed the National Art Fund
  • Sefton’s more unusual claims to fame include: inadvertently causing a riot with fascists when trying to photograph Oswold Mosley, beating the world-record holder for the mile Derek Ibbotson in a 120-yards hurdle race and winning a Manchester beautiful baby contest in 1931

In Quotes

  • “The photographic equivalent of Ken Loach... One of the city’s leading photographers” - The Guardian
  • “Manchester’s finest” - Time Out
  • “Excellent iconic images taken by such an eminent photojournalist” - Professor Ralph Jacobson, former President of Royal Photographic Society
  • “Wonderful photographs” - Professor Mark Hawooth-Booth, former curator of photography at the V&A
  • “Really marvellous imagery” - Marina Vaisey, art critic
  • “A stunning collection” - Felicity Goodey, Lifelong President of The Lowry Centre Trust