Words by Kim West..
By the afternoon, we were well into our flow and images were finding us as quickly as we were finding them – and what better place to discover the true culture of the Northern Quarter than Affleck’s Palace. I can describe it only as an eclectic cave of an alternative department store; a place for smaller businesses to rent a space to exhibit or sell or create. Fantasy mixes with fashion, expressive teenagers and tattooed bear-like men rub shoulders with old ladies, young children and everyone in between. I even saw a guy who could pass for Johnny Depp. There was a definite retro feel to the place, you wouldn’t struggle to find anything from a 1950’s fur coat to an Eighties boom-box.
For the most part of the day, our group of four wandered together, stretching in different directions but not going far – I tended to hang back to watch Keith work rather than altering the dynamic by muscling in, but as soon as we hit Affleck’s, we subconsciously broke up. There were 4 or 5 floors of rented space, full to the brim with jewellery, clothes, fancy dress and artwork, and all presented by shop owners as equally individual as the pieces they were selling. This place is a treasure trove – not just for buyers, but for photographers. You can’t fail to be excited and inspired by the people and sights around you – Keith even pulled yours truly in for a shot against a background of music posters on a stairwell – this led a lady to approach us regarding her sons’ photography work and a group he ran. I find it amazing how the most random of people and conversations crop up when they see Keith with a camera, and how many people actually approach him as well as the other way round. Business cards and details were swapped and firm agreement made that Affleck’s is definitely on the list for visiting with the Manchester Street Photography Courses – it’s like a playground.
From the Northern Quarter, Scott led us on to Ancoats, the next great up-and-coming area in the culture history of Manchester. On passing a group of three guys smoking outside their office building, one of them showed an interest and called us over. Keith explained it sometimes happens – an extrovert shows an interest and invites Keith to shoot. In this case, a guy in a suit with gangster-like qualities provided what we agreed was probably the shot-of-the-day. He oozed charisma and cheek, and smoked his cigarette the way Keith used to – his eyes told a thousand stories and he was naturally the centre of their group, totally at ease in front of the camera. Another of the group proceeded to tell us about “The Peeps” that were dotted around the area – a series of telescope looking metal spyglasses that have been placed on the outside of buildings for passers-by to look into – each holding a bricked up piece of industrial history. I loved how this guy who’d never met us before, took time out of his day to give us a quick tour down the street – hewas intrigued by Keith’s history and work, my role in the day, who was who and why we were there. I don’t exactly live in a bubble myself, but I was suitably impressed to see the levels of communication between likeminded people. It truly reinforces our previous discussions around human behaviour.
The end of our day was spent doing a final round-up on Oldham and Tib Street – an old lady checking her handbag next to a Banksy-looking -duck seemed too good to be true and I pointed her out to Keith – too late. He’d already shot her ten seconds earlier, slowly walking past a tattoo parlour. Keith often portrays humour in his images via the juxtaposition of certain characters against opposing backdrops. There’s a little blue humour in this one. I’ll let you make your own mind up…
Here is more information for Keith’s Street Photography Course in Manchester..