The story behind my award-winning Manchester Street Photograph.

Whilst in Manchester recently, I spent some hours wandering the back streets of the city in search of street photography opportunities. I love Manchester, it reminds me of my new home city Brighton with its artistic graffiti, diversity and even has seagulls! ('Manchester by the Sea’). But it has always been the victorian red/orange brickwork that I think of when I think of Manchester, and that is what I wanted to capture, especially as this aspect is diminishing in a city that is still undergoing significant modernisation.

At the corner of a Junction I saw this eye-catching graffiti and started to take some shots of it. I then noticed the man on the right of the shot looking skywards and loved the balance it gave. It transpired that he was waiting for his wife to emerge from a nearby shop and seemed deep in thought. I had no time to ask permission and anyway it would have resulted in him being aware of my camera and the moment lost. Afterwards I wandered over and explain what I was doing, I showed him the photo on the back of my camera and he willingly gave me permission to keep it. We exchanged details and I sent him a copy for him to print. We also had a good chat about our mutual liking for bands such as The Who, Jam, Weller and other Mod/post Mod themes

Initially I would have opted to have been in a more central position but that was not possible due to the width of the road plus it would have made my presence known. But I actually liked the way the graffiti character was looking head on at me. In terms of perspective I took a compromised  angled shot where the pavement was rising but the top of the building converging down (I didn't have my recently aquired tilt & shift lens - which would have largly sorted this, as my camera bag already weighed a ton!) I included some of the side street opposite to enable me to have crop options later. In the end I kept a portion of the distant blue building and the shiny beer container as I felt it added an extra dimension.

Processing: Using a several journeys between Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop etc.,  I corrected the perspective issues, leaving the pavement slightly tailing away and made some crops. I then brought out detail and colours to almost HDR levels. I don’t like manipulating street photography images as I believe they should be real, so I did little else.

I entered this image to the SWPP monthly competition and to my total delight it was awarded GOLD status. This is a pretty big deal in my world as the entrants are of a very high world-wide standard.

Why I like the image: The eye is initially drawn to the face of the graffiti man, the purple splash and then over to the man standing to the side looking upwards and standing so naturally. His blue jacket. I also like the bold brickwork detail and the composition of the architecture. The distant building and beer barrel all add to an image that features several elements. I got lucky but took advantage.

But what I really ike most about this photo is that it looks posed but 100% wasn’t!

The SOC (straight out of camera)  and post-production versions are below.

Manchester gold award
Alan Barnes