Hobo Photo’s Hit the North exhibition, celebrating northern photography across five decades, opens this week.
From incisive portraiture to grand rural vistas to quiet urban details, photographs will fill Manchester Central Library’s exhibition space.
The show is curated by Manchester-based Hobo Photo, which promotes photography with high-quality roving exhibitions.
Hit the North features eight artists. All prints will be available for sale.
Five decades of photography
Each of the images in Hit the North celebrate a different aspect of northern photography.
In 1972, while studying photography at Manchester Polytechnic, Daniel Meadows took over a disused barber’s shop in Moss Side’s Greame Street.
People came along to the ‘free photography studio’ and had their portraits taken for nothing.
Meadows put the pictures in the shop window and distributed prints to people’s houses. But after eight weeks he ran out of money and had to close.
Feeling guilty because people could no longer see the photographs, he laid them out on wooden boards which he nailed to a tree in the nearby park.
Only in retrospect did he realise this had been his first exhibition.
Based in Salford, rising star artist Phoebe Kiely prints her photographs by hand in a darkroom using traditional analogue processes.
Kiely graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2015. Her work has already been exhibited at Tate Modern in London and Open Eye in Liverpool.
Leading photography publisher Mack will launch her first book, They Were My Landscape, this May.
Matthew Murray’s latest book, Saddleworth: Responding To A Landscape was published in 2017. It includes essays by artist Richard Billingham and Martin Barnes, senior curator of photographs at The Victoria and Albert Museum.
Despite sitting in a long tradition of landscape art, the dark metallic photographs of Saddleworth in this show are the result of Murray’s deeply personal vision.
Under the Hood, Chris Harrison
Chris Harrison was born and grew up in the north east of England.
At 15, he became an apprentice in the local shipyard. He subsequently took up photography while serving as a sniper in the British Army.
Eventually, he earned a master’s degree from the Royal College of Art.
Under the Hood is the series of portraits of lads from Salford in 1994.
Redolent of the grand tradition of painting, the lighting and drapery give Harrison’s subjects gravity and status.
Yet the portraits are stubbornly photographic, especially in the down-to-earth elements such as bags, cans, fags and framing, which all gently jar against the set up.
Most importantly, there is something unresolved and uncertain as these lads stare back at us across a quarter of a century.
Celebrating northern artists
Since 1968, Ian Macdonald has photographed the hinterland of his native Cleveland, hand printing his work using traditional silver-based processes.
The quiet pictures of people, industry and landscape in this exhibition not only communicate Macdonald’s strong feelings for his home region, they also convey his great passion for photography.
Paul Floyd Blake left school and started work in the industrial laundry business, shelving his dreams of art college.
However, he always kept up his interest in art and eventually studied a degree in photography, graduating with first-class honours in 2005. Work in Hit the North is from his cleverly-titled series Give Us A Sign.
They are respectful yet inquiring, subtly showing us there is greater depth and complexity than we may first have imagined.
For more than 25 years, Tessa Bunney has photographed rural life. She explores how humans shape the landscape around them.
Her work travels from hill farmers near her home in North Yorkshire to Icelandic puffin hunters.
The photographs in this exhibition celebrate the domestic flower growers of northern England, past and present.
Flower farms were once a familiar feature of the British countryside. However, industrialised growing methods and then globalisation saw their decline.
Now small flower farms are springing up again, fed by fresh interest in environmental sustainability and local seasonal produce.
Liza Dracup’s work is rooted in the landscape and nature of the North.
Photographed in a style reminiscent of Dutch still-life painting, they reveal just how extraordinary and valuable the ordinary and local can be, illuminating a northern natural history we might otherwise ignore.
Hit the North
Hit the North will be shown on the first floor of Central Library, St Peter’s Square, Manchester.
It is open from April 19 to June 30.
Entrance is free.
Spectrum Photographic produced 12 C-type Matt prints for Chris Harrison.
For more information on the exhibition visit www.hobophoto.co.uk
Main image: Chris Harrison, The Three Lads, Salford, 1994, from the series Under the Hood, image courtesy the artist and Hobo Photo