Magnetic North

An installation for the MRI scanning unit at Bradford Royal Infirmary

Since early times European navigators believed that compass needles were attracted either to a “magnetic mountain” or “magnetic island” somewhere in the far north or to the Pole Star.

The magnetic field in a MRI scanner is aligned to Magnetic North and so to the Pole Star.

Both the scanner and magnetic north are symbolic of navigation and journeys, one in the literal geographical sense and the other in a metaphorical sense as in a journey through the body navigating tissues and organs.

This series of images represents a walk towards Magnetic North; it references time, the unseen and the circular shape of the MRI scanner.

All images were taken facing Magnetic North along an imaginary line starting from the MRI scanning unit at Bradford Royal Infirmary and traveling across the Yorkshire countryside.

The first part of this journey took me over Ilkley Moor and sites there included an ancient stone circle, a number of cup and ring marked stones, the Doubler stones allotment and an abandoned millstone quarry.

(It is believed that the cups on cup and ring marked rocks may have been cut for medicinal purposes, water collected in the cups would dissolve the salts from the rock and these solutions were believed to have healing properties).

Ian Beesley


My teacup handle points to the window,

My hair seems to lean to the vast outdoors,

The pen on my desk spins, and then stops.

I could walk from this place in a long straight line

Through fields, over moors, by the walls that stretch

And snake overland to the top of the map:

Magnetic North is calling me home.

Ian McMillan