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A bird’s eye view from above a pleasure boat in Salford Quays

A bird’s eye view from above the Princess Katherine in North Bay, between MediaCityUK and The Lowry at Salford Quays. I’ve wanted to shoot a panorama from here for a couple of years, as I’ve captured panos from many of the tall buildings nearby and wondered what it would look like from the water, surrounded by the iconic buildings all around.

Amongst other sights, this view takes in the new BBC buildings, the MediaCity studios, the University of Salford’s MCUK, ITV’s offices (and across the Manchester Ship Canal, the new Coronation Street set), The Lowry and the Imperial War Museum in the North. Just beyond lies Trafford Park, and just out of sight, Manchester United’s famous football stadium at Old Trafford.

This was a bit of a challenge to photograph – a side wind meant the boat was drifting and rotating considerably even in the time it took to shoot this – but I still think it provides a cool perspective on one of the most dynamic parts of Salford and Manchester.

Massive Attack v Adam Curtis at MIF13, Mayfield Depot, Manchester

Look around the panorama above to explore a series of panoramic 360° views around Mayfield Depot. Toggle between a view showing the show layout, and the depot as it was before rigging, by click the button on the top right. Click/tap the red hotspots to jump from viewpoint to viewpoint.

Massive Attack v Adam Curtis, the much-anticipated event from Robert Del Naja, Adam Curtis and UVA opened last week as one of the headline attractions at this year’s Manchester International Festival. I was there in Mayfield Depot on the day before the show opened, just as the crew were testing video and audio. I have to admit, I had high expectations when this gig was announced: I’ve admired Adam Curtis’ documentaries for the last decade or more, and I last saw Massive Attack play in Manchester in 1998, when guests Horace Andy & Elizabeth Fraser (appearing here at MIF) provided outstanding performances. Expectations were raised further after spending an afternoon shooting the venue before it was cleaned and rigged out, trying to second-guess how it’d be used for the event.

Shooting this was… challenging and complicated. Capturing a 360° panorama requires shooting a series of images, in this case looking around every 90°. And shooting another series of different exposures to capture the wide dynamic range of light. Try doing that in a dark room where the video screens are constantly playing a huge range of different coloured, contrasting content; cycling rapidly and changing the light levels and reflections.

360° panorama of Massive Attack v Adam Curtis at MIF13

When I originally shot the venue back in May there was less light, but I had the luxury of several hours to capture the series of HDR panoramas at my own pace, largely undisturbed. Not this time… I had a brief window before full rehearsals commenced. All while crew members are frantically criss-crossing the floor, and visitors in high-viz vests are milling about. Definitely a shoot to keep me on my toes.

So a combination of patience, luck, determination, and a well-honed post-production routine resulted in the final image, which manages to capture the structure and feel of the newly-repurposed Mayfield Depot, but also gives a flavour of the intensity of the visual content (see the trailer below). It’s an incredible venue and a hell of an AV setup, and this should give an indication of standing the centre of such an immersive space.

360° panorama of Massive Attack v Adam Curtis at MIF13

Disclaimer: When I wrote this I’d not yet seen the full show… just some of the footage during the AV tests, and hearing a little of Liz Fraser singing a cappella on stage (which was pretty special). I saw it the following evening: it was overwhelming, disconcerting, thought-provoking and challenging… exactly what I’d expect from Adam Curtis, Massive Attack and UVA!

Panoramic camera rig in Mayfield Depot

Inside Hulme Hippodrome, Manchester

As part of RIBA’s Love Architecture Festival, the Manchester Society of Architects organised an open day, arranging access to a diverse range of spaces and places normally not open to the public. Due to prior engagements that day I had to (begrudgingly) choose just a single location for a whistle-stop visit. Top of my list was the Grade II listed Hulme Hippodrome, somewhere I’d been curious about since living nearby in the late 90s. As with Mayfield Depot and Victoria Baths, I’m drawn to neglected places in the city with rich cultural and historical depths, and had previously seen photos of the delights within.

360° panorama of Hulme Hippodrome interior by Joby Catto of Anti Limited

The nondescript facade of the building gives little clue of what’s inside, but the interior itself is stunning: riotously bright colours, ornate plaster mouldings and grandiose details abound. The richness and detailing in the auditorium is tempered by years of weather damage and dereliction. Neither time nor the elements have been been kind to the building; dilapidation has taken a toll on the furniture and fittings; the roof’s badly damaged, exposing the interior to Manchester’s delightful climate; and multiple pigeons have occupied most parts of the building, leaving fecal streaks everywhere.

360° panorama of Hulme Hippodrome interior by Joby Catto of Anti Limited

Luckily the Hippodrome has many admirers and supporters who recognise both the historical importance of the building, and the potential it has as a community resource. One man in particular is leading the drive to restore the former music hall and theatre to its former glory.

I chatted to Tony Wright, the operations manager for social enterprise The Youth Village, who’s worked tirelessly to raise funds and awareness since they occupied the building in 2011. His passion for the project is infectious. It needs to be; he estimates a full refurbishment will cost a cool £20 million, with initial work to fix the roof and guttering around £50,000. It’s an incredible space though… and through hard work, smart investment and strategic partnerships, that might be achievable. Spread the word about the anonymous building with the incredible secret hidden inside, and how you might be able to help…

Look around the image above to explore the Hippodrome in two different panoramic 360° views. Click/tap the white hotspot marker to jump from viewpoint to viewpoint.

Mayfield Depot before MIF13: inside and unwrapped in 360°

Look around the panorama above to explore a series of four panoramic 360° views around Mayfield Depot. Click/tap the red hotspots to jump from viewpoint to viewpoint.

Every photographer has a wish-list of places they’d like to explore – there are quite a few in Manchester I’ve always been curious about for years – and Mayfield Depot has always been pretty close to the top for me.

So when this year’s Manchester International Festival announced Mayfield Depot was one of their headline venues, my excitement levels mounted. I’m delighted to be working on a series of 360° panoramas for MIF13, working again with Toasted Productions as we did during MIF11. As such, I finally got inside Mayfield Depot to capture it in all its decaying detail before it’s rigged out for gigs and exhibitions. Above is a panoramic tour of four views, below are unwrapped versions.

As these are now being featured on the MIF, Manchester Evening News and Guardian Culture websites I can share some previews of the interiors of Mayfield Depot, before its transformation for performances by Massive Attack v Adam Curtis and much more. Enjoy looking around one of the most evocative hidden spaces in Manchester…

Update: you can now see a before and after view of the set here, showing the Massive Attack vs Adam Curtis set build.

Maurice Carlin at Castlefield Gallery

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser. 

Having previously documented several exhibitions at Salford’s Islington Mill, we were commissioned to capture Maurice Carlin’s excellent solo exhibition ‘First… Next… Then… Finally’, which ran at the acclaimed Castlefield Gallery in Manchester.

The variations in light, detail and texture was both a challenge and an opportunity to capture realistically: so we shot the exhibition with a range of high dynamic range techniques to capture the exhibition in as natural and balanced a manner as possible. Using 360° panoramic photography allows the viewer to enjoy the scale, relation and context of the pieces in situ.

A range of detailed still photographs of artworks featured in the exhibition can also be seen below. These have featured in a range of publications including Frieze Magazine.

[Edit: you can now also view an ultra high resolution gigapixel panorama of Maurice’s workshop here]

Here is some background about Maurice and the exhibition, reproduced from the Castlefield gallery press release.

After completing an art foundation course in 2007, Carlin actively stepped out of the formal education system by co-founding Islington Mill Art Academy, a peer-led experiment into alternative forms of artist education, recently featured in Frieze, A N and Corridor 8 magazines. Respectively Carlin’s practice has developed from a unique context within the vibrant independent art and music scenes in Manchester.

“I often site the production of my work in the public domain, which becomes for me a form of ‘publishing’, drawing attention to the underneath and overlooked elements within the day to day world that largely go unnoticed. My practice explores spaces of transition, a stage where one thing has yet to become another. ‘Crisis’ as described by the writer Umberto Eco[1] is a productive “moment of transition in which something that held before doesn’t hold any longer and there is not yet something new”.

Major works in the exhibition will include Corrupted Images – analogue relief prints of surfaces referencing the first print/publishing techniques developed in ancient China – produced on a busy high street in Manchester which served as a temporary studio. Blue (Sleep Mode) a collaboration with renowned artist David Medalla, depicts Medalla wandering through the streets of Salford at night with a mobile projector, illuminating details of the walls and surfaces of the city. In Screenscans, glitch snippets of television programmes are collected on a handheld digital document scanner. These captured moments of day to day broadcasting are outputted as large, filmic, storyboard like prints, both suggesting and distorting narratives.

Carlin’s work has a beguiling simplicity and directness, often belying a complex web of ideas, explored through a variety of media and approaches. An openness to the possibilities within an arts practice is evident in his work, something almost certainly arising from the independence and freedom of a non University education.