TIB STREET, NORTHERN QUARTER, MANCHESTER 7.27AM
When I tweeted an iPhone picture after this shoot I wrote “I didn’t end up where I thought I would”. Sometimes I set off with a clear idea in my head of where I want to be, perhaps having already been there previously, but sometimes things don’t appear as I think they will. Streets and views that look inviting in the day can simply not be as I want them to be in the half light of dawn. And conversely, something that presents as drab in daylight can come alive with colour as night clings to the walls and pavements.
I’d remembered walking along Church Street, and noticing the bizarre layers of architectural styles that could be seen back towards the Arndale. And there was the famous Black Dog Ballroom, often the scene of last men standing as they’re finally forced home at 4am. So I’d assumed it would be an easy picture to take. However, in the transition from dark to light, the scene in front of me left me feeling disappointed.
Instinct took me up the steps into the Smithfield Buildings, where the colonnades are more Eastern Bloc than Renaissance. A pool of light held my eye, just as the scent of a sleeping human reached my nostrils. Below me, on the street, a Chinese couple were scooping noodles into their hungry mouths before they set off towards Piccadilly, pulling suitcases behind them.
Suddenly a man appeared from a shadowed corner, humble in his stance, and he asked me what I was photographing, clearly nervous that it had been him and his homeless mate. I assured him that I hadn’t included him in my composition, and offered to show him my picture, an invitation which he declined.
A member of staff arrived to open up the cafe just along from me, and she tried to wake the guy still sleeping. Her tone reminded me of the one used by care staff towards elderly residents. David, the one that had asked me what I was doing, arrived with breakfast from Greggs. His friend, now awake, changed his trousers as discreetly as he could. “Been tough since I got back from Afghanistan” he said, as if I’d asked.
As the dark receded more people were pacing along the streets, pulling small cases behind them. Everyone seemed to be on the move, and on the way to somewhere they didn’t really belong.
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