Interview with Manchester Street Photography

by diarmuidmcdonald

Keen to contact and meet up with other street photographers in my area, mainly to discuss techniques and share thoughts on photography in general, I found myself in touch with the ominously titled Manchester Street Photography. Initially referred to me by my boss, the Manchester Street Photography Facebook page has almost doubled in popularity in the two weeks that I have been aware of it. My first thought; what is this photography club and why am I not a member?! (and if i’m honest; why don’t this many people look at my photos! – Indeed I am that petty).

I got in touch with Manchester Street Photography with a few questions, and was surprised to learn that this page was the hobby project of one individual: Matthew, 35, from Manchester (predictably). The full interview can be read below. All photos courtesy of Manchester Street Photography and can be found on the Facebook page.


How long have you been interested in street photography?

I’ve been doing street photography since December 2012. I bought my first DSLR (Nikon D7000) to go to Vietnam with a friend, obviously I did all the tourist stuff, but on the last day in Saigon I bought a 70-200mm 2.8g lens and me and my friend went around the city at night taking candid pictures and I loved it. When I was on the plane back home I realised I really enjoyed taking pictures and wanted to carry on when I got home but was struggling to think of what genre of photography I wanted to peruse. After looking at the pictures from Saigon I decided to go down the street photography route.

What gear do you use?

I think you can use any camera for street photography, that’s what I like about it, but I use a Nikon D800 and a mixture of lenses; 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.4 and 24-70mm 2.8.

Is there anything in particular that you aim to capture in your street photography?

I really like high contrast, patterns but anything that tells a story really. I also really like public displays of affection, there is something very interesting about sharing a private moment in a public space, it gives a great view into how people are privately with each other.


Who, or what, directly influences your photography?

I’d like to think I don’t have any influences as I like to think I’m doing my own thing, but I do admire Vivian Maier; a wonderful story, and I like the fact she felt no one had to see her work. Someone once told me Art isn’t Art until it is seen.

A photograph I really like is of a French Artist called Yvnes Klein photographed by Harry Shunk – into the void. What I love about it, apart from how striking Yves is throwing himself off the building, is the man riding away on the bicycle completely unaware he’s in an amazing photograph forever and he probably didn’t know his whole life. I think that mirrors street photography.

To what extent do you interact with your subjects?

I very rarely ask for peoples permission to take the photo but when I do I’m clear, to the point and polite when asking for the shot.

How important to you is the candid element in your street photography?

It depends on the situation or person really, sometimes I’m begging the person in my mind to look down the lens if they’ve not seen it and other times the opposite.

Has street photography ever got you caught up in an unpleasant situations or confrontations?

Once or twice but nothing I’ve never been able to get out of or walk away from. I also do Urbexing photography and that got me arrested once.


What are your thoughts on the ethics of street photography; where do you feel the balance should lie between artistic expression and an individual’s right to privacy?

In my mind if someone is in a public space they have no right to privacy but that’s not to say if someone objects to me taking their photo I won’t stop. I respect peoples wishes not to be photographed.

Are there any principles you maintain in your photography? – i.e some people would never shoot the homeless, some would never use a flash. Are there any rules you would never break?

The only thing I wouldn’t do is jump out at people with a flash which some American street photographers do, I think it’s extremely rude and very much a breach of someones private space, I do shoot the homeless a bit, but that’s better than ignoring them isn’t it? What I find really interesting is peoples presumption that a character I take a photo of is homeless when often they’re not.


Any Photography Pet hates?


Tell me about the classes you will be hosting next year?

I’ll be running some workshops early next year on street photography; techniques, do’s and don’ts, what to look for and so on. I’d really like for more people to get into this genre of photography, for me it’s the simplest form of photography, you need nothing but a camera and your eye. I love how accessible it is to everybody.

Do you have any ongoing projects at the moment or are you taking things one shot at a time?

I don’t really do projects but I have had a few ideas which I may look into next year, but really I just get into the city and shoot what I see.

Finally, what one piece of advise would you give to anybody interested in taking up street photography?

Be prolific and get out there. Get taking pictures because you won’t get that great shot at home.


While Matthew takes some very fine images (his street portraits in Manchester are fantastic), what I was impressed most by was his enthusiasm to involve others in street photography. In the last week I have noticed a couple of people posting their own street shots taken around Manchester on Matt’s Facebook page, and its good to see his enthusiasm inspire others. I plan to keep in touch with him and will hopefully arrange a session shooting in the streets together.

Be sure to check out his Facebook page (below) and keep an eye out for his Street Photography Workshops coming to Manchester in the new year.