Meet the photographers in Manchester who are redefining street photography. CONCRETE caught a pack of them at the Pevril of the Peak last week and convinced them to tell us why they tick. We found a closely intertwined community of talented and forthright individuals refuting the stereotypes of huge camera lenses, anoraks and photos of zebra crossings.

Untitled,Tomi from Brockley, 2021.

How did you start taking photos?
Elliott Davenport:
I bounced off the wall in school. I was trouble. I went to an arts school. Mr. Parker was my form tutor and he told me I should do photography, something creative. I thought art was gum paper and graphite. I hated it. I don’t care about vases and flowers. He helped me find what was interesting. I did it at AS because he told me I should, and a mate was doing it, too. He let me use a Canon 350d, a proper kit SLR. He was like “Take it out. Don’t tell the other students, coz they’ll all want it. But whenever you want to take it out, you can take it out.” I was like ‘great,’ and that was it. I saw the first photos I ever took with that camera, of a shoe, and I thought not bad. *laughs* I got a lot to be thankful for from Mr Parker.

Untitled, Elliott Davenport, 2022.

Do you have a day job? Do you like it or not?
Hulme Loonies:
I don’t because I broke my leg recently. I worked in a Jewish bakery before that. My mum loved it – she’d convert if she could. I want a picture of a Hulme punk with one of the Jewish guys from the bakery. I’d love that.
Crack Dracula: I hate working full stop. I worked at Subway before and I accidentally threatened an annoying customer with a Subway knife. It was this guy tutting in the queue. Me and my colleagues were all sweating in a line making sandwiches. I was like, “If he tuts one more time,” and he does. I go, “Oi mate, if you tut one more fucking time this will be the last time you smell a subway sandwich”. He said “I wasn’t even tutting.” The woman in front of him turned round and goes, “Yes you were”. The manager said if it happened again I’d get fired. My current job sort of helps my photography. You have to sell yourself on the phone, and then when you take photos, people are either scared or aggressive. If you can sell that you are genuine, that you are taking their photo because they are wearing something cool, or have a presence, that’s a good technique, so I redirect to that; “I like your top. You look powerful today.” There’s so many different techniques.
Elliott Davenport: I’m a photographer for Foot Asylum full time. I do really enjoy it. I’m using equipment I’d need to take out a mortgage to afford myself. I’m lucky to work with photographers, models and producers in a creative team daily.

NYE 2021, Crack Dracula, 2021.

Why did you agree to CONCRETE’s interview?
Abi Black:
I like the community aspect. It feels like a bit of recognition.
Tomi from Brockley: I had nothing better to do.
Cosh: That I won’t be censored. I hate jargon, too, fuck that shit.
Elliott Davenport: I like its ethos. I don’t have much patience if I don’t think someone cares about something enough. Also, I told myself that this year I’d do everything and see what happens.

Why a camera?
Crack Dracula:
It’s the only thing that’s stuck.
Cosh: I’ve always loved the thought of capturing that one moment. The subject has happened, it isn’t imaginary. Freezing time is a weird thing to think about.

Lamb, Lyddie Mac, 2021.

Why an iPhone?
Lyddie Mac:
I don’t think I could get the shots I like taking if I used a camera. When I shoot on iPhone I am honing in on very specific things. It can even be an ear. It’s about bring the subject to the forefront. Everyone can do sneaky shots on iPhone. You can pretend you’re taking a selfie.

What’s your favourite shot you’ve taken?
Tomi from Brockley:
I like my one of a Boris Johnson impersonator. I met him in this dutty kebab shop in Northern Quarter at a stupid time in the morning. He was sitting there by himself. He’d came all the way up from Brighton – a group of lads hired him. He got paid!
Hulme Loonies: One that I’ve taken from a party around the firepit in Hulme. We blagged the Mayor and the police to have an outdoor party in the middle of lockdown. We got speakers out and old and young people were partying together. My images of the party show Hulme exactly as it is: a mixture of the young and the old, drinking together and being weirdos. I was steaming. I don’t know how the photos came out so well.
Jake Aaron Howe: My picture of a guy emerging out of the fountains on Piccadilly Gardens. It’s like he’s being born again, dragging himself through the water.

Rebirth Amongst Birdshit, Jake Aaron Howe, 2021.

What makes an interesting subject?
Lyddie Mac:
Someone who is completely unaware of themselves. The person who is trying not to stand out is the person I’m usually drawn towards.

Do you prefer to shoot in the day or night?
Tomi from Brockley:
It was day for the longest time. I’m obsessed with using flash even if it’s during the day. I like the night more recently, though. I want to do something with my work about bringing the night into the light. If something’s in the dark you bring it into the light you can see the truth. Say you’re in the club and you’re moving a ting, it’s the dark, you don’t really see anything, then when the light comes on, you see everyone in the club, and you’re like ‘fuck’! *laughs* It’s the truth. You’ve got to confront it.

Pret’s Hot, Lyddie Mac, 2020.

Do you feel like you fit people’s idea of a street photographer?
Lyddie Mac:
No. I wonder what the other good photographers in Manchester think of my phone compositions. People think of street photographers as middle aged men in anoraks with huge lenses that go home to edit their pictures to upload them to flickr while their wives make their dinner.

What makes street photography in Manchester different to elsewhere?
Crack Dracula:
These London photographers came up to Manchester and I met them. They were lovely people, don’t get me wrong, but they confused me. They had these huge expensive zoom lenses and were taking photos that looked really close but were from across the street whereas I’m there with a 35mm lens. They’d be like ‘oh that guy over there, I wish I could take his photo,’ but I’d be like ‘right, I’ll actually do it,’ and I’ll go up to him and have a chat, too. Don’t stand here and say ‘I wish I could be there’ when it’s still happening. The 35mm lens is apparently the most accurate lens to what the eye sees, too, so I’m always as close to the subject as the photo is.

Untitled, Charles Hall, 2021.

Can you talk about the overlap between Manchester’s photography scene and its party scene?
Charles Hall:
Manchester photography scene has become something much larger over the past few years. Everyone who goes to rave events likes the photos that are associated with it. More and more people are making separate Instagram accounts to share photos that they’ve taken. It also seems there’s so many more people with point and shoot cameras. Film style photography has definitely become more trendy as people have started returning to rave events post lockdown.

Riot Feds, Tomi from Brockley, 2021.

Tomi, there’s an image you’ve taken I really like. Can you talk about Riot Feds?
Tomi from Brockley:
I was in Paris in 2019. My brother and sister went to an Afropunk festival because I wanted to go and do my own thing. I hadn’t been to Paris before. I ended up at Champs-Elysee. There was a protest going on. There were bare riot feds letting off smoke to disperse us. This one canister came in and people scattered before it even hit the ground. I didn’t get it; we were chilling in the smoke, why did people cut? Next thing you know I can’t breathe. It’s tear gas! I start running, sprinting, like ‘just run!’ I took this picture that day. They’re always protesting over there. It’s that sort of thing, being from London, you see feds all the time. I don’t really get a chance to get up close. In Paris they’re fighting their own struggle. It’s definitely one of my favourite pictures from that trip.

Untitled, Hulme Loonies, 2021.

Hulme Loonies, your work documents Hulme in the tradition of Al Baker and Richard Davis. Can we talk about why you document it?
Hulme Loonies:
After my dad passed away, I realised that things which made my childhood great hadn’t been something everyone experienced – big street parties, punks’ picnics – all that stuff. There are few places like Hulme. It has a highly interesting history. Despite the housing boom after the war, Hulme didn’t get any new housing until the 1960s. What it got was four horse-shoe shaped buildings of flats which were built fast and big. These were the Crescents. They were seen as ‘streets in the sky’ – you could walk through the Crescents to get across Hulme, and the Hulme shopping centre was knocked down and replaced by the Crescents. They were built quickly but had many corners cut. After being inhabited for only two years, a kid fell off the fifth floor and died. It was deemed unsafe for children, families were kicked out, and it became a no-go zone for the police and ambulances. Hulme in this period was documented by photographers Richard Davis and Al Baker. The Mancunian Way was built during this time meaning Hulme was cut off from the centre of town. The Crescents became a place for mad parties and subcultures. It was squatted. They got knocked down in 1991. People took cars to the ‘streets in the sky’ and drove them off the end of the corridors with the hand brakes off. All these cars were sent off the top of Crescents as a mark of the end of the Crescents era. The community spirit and the people who lived in the Crescents remain in Hulme. It’s the same Hulme now it always has been.

Untitled, Hulme Loonies, 2021.

What aspects of life in Hulme do you want to show?
Hulme Loonies:
I want to capture that the community and culture hasn’t stopped because the Crescents have been demolished. A lot of those same people are still there, it’s still that mad place. I want to capture Hulme’s community. I know the history, I’ve lived there since I was a kid, but I’m also part of the new generation who are keeping Hulme this creative minefield of madness. The Garden Centre, the fire pit parties, NAIMOS – a community-led space – are all in Hulme. At NAIMOS, if you pay a quid, you give five hours a month, and eventually you can work with them to help get a studio space. I’ve known them all for years. They are the best people. They are putting Hulme on the map. They keep young and old involved, and they are run by people who are new in the area, people who have lived there a while, or are from the Crescents. Community never left and it’s important to celebrate that.

Sorry Girls, I Suck Dicks, Crack Dracula, 2021.

Crack Dracula, can we talk about your image Sorry Girls, I Suck Dicks?
Crack Dracula:
Jake [Aaron Howe] saw the guy on the way to meet me one time last Summer. We walked through Piccadilly Gardens and on the spur of the moment I took the photo. It just works really well. It’s not often you get rolls of film back and you’re like, “yeah, I’m doing something right”. I’m trying to top that photo.

Cosh for Geek Files, 2021.

Cosh, you’ve worked with Geek Files, the up and coming streetwear brand before. Can you tell me how that happened?
Saffi, who runs Geek Files, started taking film photos when we were both in first year at university together. Obviously you don’t really know each other at that point, but he saw I was putting film photography out. We got talking and have been bouncing off each other since. That guy’s work ethic is ridiculous. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve photographed his first beanie, and some of my photos are in the first video he made for Geek Files. He got a Morgan Freeman impersonator narrating the video. It’s so cool! Saffi brings people with him, he wants others to prosper, too.

What would you do if you didn’t take photos? What field?
Elliott Davenport:
Football. If there’s a ball I’m like a golden retriever.

What’s something that always makes you laugh?
Hulme Loonies:
A formal complaint I got from the police about Iggy from Hulme. Iggy’s a Hulme legend. I’ve taken photos of him before. He sits in the same couple of spots. He used to be one of my dad’s best mates, so I’ve known him all my life, but everyone knows him. Anything he says makes me laugh. He used to live in a flat in Hulme and was a nightmare neighbour. He’d have loads of people in his back garden. I have a police letter in my house – a formal complaint about him – saying ‘all we could smell was fire in the air, people drinking at all hours’. The official complaint was that Iggy was playing the guitar and singing the Neighbours theme tune in an ‘antagonising fashion’ whenever they complained.

Tread Lightly for My Shattered Dreams Lay under Cornbrook Tram Stop, Jake Aaron Howe, 2021.

What’s your most prized possession?
Charles Hall:
Definitely my Contax T2 – it is my point and shoot that I take absolutely everywhere with me. It was the step up from my old hazed up point and shoot to a different gravy of photography. I persuaded a friend to upgrade @baggyboyfilm and his account’s following started increasing rapidly, too.

How would you like to be remembered?
Hulme Loonies:
Through Hulme. People think the creative spirit left, but it hasn’t. There is a massive creative community still. After the Crescents got knocked down, people moved to the outskirts. Hulme is full of skinheads, squatters, punks, rastas, activists – all walks of life. The Crescents were captured by a few people. I want to carry this tradition on by capturing Hulme nowadays. When there is the next Hulme party I’ll let you know.
Jake Aaron Howe: As someone who took worthwhile photographs. All artists go mad, don’t they? *laughs* As having refrained from cutting an ear off.
Elliott Davenport: The granny next door is nice, so not that. I want to be remembered for my work.
Crack Dracula: As the person who was there to take the photo.

Piccadilly Bus Station, Abi Black, 2021.

Do you think it’s easy to start taking photos?
Hulme Loonies:
Just keep on doing it. All I do is press a button. Anyone that fancies having a crack can do it.
Tomi from Brockley: Everyone takes photos anyway. People prescribe a certain status quo to it, with a mad camera and that. Everyone does it anyway. The difference is whether or not you have that fire for it.
Abi Black: It’s not about being good at it or not. It’s about passion for it.

All images are property of the artists’. CONCRETE would like to thank Abi Black, Cosh, Charles Hall, Crack Dracula, Elliott Davenport, Jake Aaron Howe, Hulme Loonies, Lyddie Mac and Tomi from Brockley. Check out Geek Files here. CONCRETE would also like to encourage any aspiring film photographers in Manchester to get their photos developed at Come Through Lab.