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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

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.

Inside Fūlbæchop, Bacup

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

A view inside the ‘Chop… Rossendale’s best* record shop and another south Pennine gem. Established in 2012 by artist, DJ, musical encyclopaedia and all-round nice chap Michael Holland, Fūlbæchop is a unique and personal space: part studio, part exhibition area, part record shop. Its curious moniker comes from the Old English name for Bacup, and the shop itself reflects some of the historical and cultural influences on this part of the country, as well as Michael’s broad musical tastes and heritage. Obscure vinyl, limited fanzines and CDs sit cheek by jowl with hand-crafted artworks, firewood and textiles.

Bacup lies towards the top of Rossendale in Lancashire, almost at the head of the River Irwell which flows south to separate Manchester from Salford. It sits of the hinterland between urban and rural: a gateway to wild, raw and evocative moorland landscapes. Bacup’s sometimes described as the best preserved cotton mill town in England, and it has a faded, quirky character and an uneasy relationship with its industrial past: cotton mills and coal mining were the major employers until a couple of generations ago, and their loss has left a physical and psychological scar in the town’s fabric. It’s also left a rich legacy of beautiful buildings, interesting customs and a proud sense of identity.

Fulbaechop flyers

So perhaps it makes sense for a local lad to return to his roots and set up shop here, tapping into the past and trying to create something sustainable and innovative for the future. If Fulbaechop existed in a city, it’d be full of trendy trainspotters, earnest eccentrics and cool creatives; digging through crates, sharing stories and planning collaborations. In Bacup, it’s a hidden gem, adding a welcome splash of cosmopolitan outlook and progressive inspiration. Michael’s a one-man ideas factory, bubbling with enthusiasm and pride in his local area, and keen to share his diverse knowledge of music, and showcase his own and other artist’s work.

There’s not much passing trade on Yorkshire Street, but hopefully seeing Fulbaechop in 360° will pique some people’s interest and inspire them to take a trip across the hills from Calderdale, or on a short trip from Manchester and beyond. Well worth a visit in person, or online… chop chop!

*well, only record shop… but it’s a cracker

Sylvia Plath’s grave at Heptonstall

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

The American-born poet, Sylvia Plath, was buried at Heptonstall, near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, in 1963 after a short and troubled life. In the past she was perhaps better known for her marriage to the former Poet Laurate Ted Hughes (originally from Mytholmroyd, a short distance away) but in recent years her creative impact and ability has been positively reappraised, based on a wider body of her work being discovered.

Her grave lies in the new graveyard: the headstone carries a simple inscription from Hughes, and has been defaced several times (if you look closely the name ‘Hughes’ is typeset slightly differently as the text has been replaced: a certain strand of more radical feminists is alleged have attempted to remove his surname repeatedly, in response to the abusive relationship in life and revisionist way he managed her creative legacy after death).

Sylvia Plath's headstone

On previous visits (see photo above from August 2012) the grave has been marked with stones, pens and other trophies and tributes from fans and well-wishers. On this occasion, fifty years after her death, the grave had been tidied up, just displaying floral tributes. During the time I was photographing this pano there was a steady stream of visitors to the site…

I shot this panorama on the same afternoon as a short and impromptu photoshoot with the excellent and highly tipped Merseyside band Bird, in and around the old and new church of St Thomas at Heptonstall.

Adele and Sian from Bird

I shot the band shortly before the second date on their current UK tour, when they played at the Puzzle Hall Inn in Sowerby Bridge. We had a short window of opportunity to take a few shots on a cold February afternoon, in the sombre surroundings of this ancient Yorkshire hilltop village under leaden skies. The weather matched their enigmatic, emotional and intimate music… given extra resonance as we viewed Sylvia Plath’s grave.

Thanks to Adele, Sian, Lex, Emma and Jack for their patience and good spirits: sitting in front of an open fire in the pub after an hour’s shooting in the raw winter’s air has rarely felt as rewarding!

Bird’s fourth release, Ophelia, is out now on Jack to Phono Records.

 

Twitch and Wilkes from Optimo (Espacio)

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

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

Finally caught the renowned Optimo DJ duo in action at the Reading Rooms in Dundee. Last time I was here, in 2008, I saw Andrew Weatherall in action and I wanted to shoot a panorama but wasn’t able to). This time I came prepared… and determined…

Optimo (Espacio) was a long-running club night/institution in Glasgow. The weekly residency may’ve finished but JD Twitch and JG Wilkes regularly take their show on the road to showcase the mixes which make their DJ sets so legendary.

Eclectic is an oft-used term but it genuinely applies to these guys’ sets. Note the AC/DC sleeve poking out; not often you’ll hear that in a tracklist next to Chicago acid house classics and Boddika jack trax. I’ve been enjoying their mixes for close to a decade so it was good to finally see them in person.